Northwest AEA is a partner to public and private, accredited schools and home-schools to help in the areas of school improvement and student achievement through education support services; instructional services; professional development; and leadership. The nationally known terms for area education agencies are educational services agencies (ESAs), and Iowa’s AEA system is widely regarded as one of the best in the country.


Iowa's educational structure dates back to 1858, but the first regional services were not established until 1910 when Iowa school districts numbered over 5,000. In that year county superintendents were appointed to oversee the schools in each county. Over the years the number of districts steadily declined. In 1957, the state legislature allowed counties to jointly employ one superintendent to handle the smaller number of districts. Then, in 1965 the legislature approved the merger of two or more counties into joint county school systems. But problems developed under this new arrangement. The availability of services varied greatly from one county or joint-county system to another.

The state legislature responded in 1974 by replacing county systems with 15 area education agencies to provide equity across the state. There are now 10 AEAs due to mergers across the state. Since its inception, Iowa’s AEA system has been widely regarded as one of the finest systems of intermediate services in the country.


Northwest AEA employs about 275 dedicated and passionate employees who strive to help each child reach their full potential. Whether it’s an employee who is working as a school psychologist, a print production technician, an early childhood teacher or a technology supervisor, AEA employees each do their part to help schools improve and students achieve.


This is a sampling of services provided by AEAs to students, teachers, families and communities in Iowa:

Educational Services

  • Talented and Gifted education (TAG)
  • English Language Learners (ELL)
  • Student support services
  • Licensure renewal
  • Juvenile home services
  • Tech prep
  • Mentoring and induction
  • School and community planning
  • Curriculum, instruction and assessment
  • School Improvement/Iowa Prof. Development Model (IPDM)

Media & Technology Services:

  • Lending Library
  • Iowa Educators Consortium (IEC)
  • Iowa AEA Online
  • Print and production
  • Information technology

Special Education Services:

  • Speech and language
  • Hearing conservation and education
  • School psychology
  • School social work
  • Early childhood/at risk
  • Consultation
  • Work experience and transition
  • Visually impaired
  • Autism resource
  • Assistive technology
  • Occupational and physical therapy

Accreditation Standards

Every five years, Iowa AEAs are accredited based upon the following criteria:

  • School-community planning
  • Professional development
  • Curriculum, instruction and assessment
  • Diverse learning needs
  • Multicultural, gender-fair
  • Media services
  • School technology
  • Leadership
  • Management services
  • Funding

AEAs have no taxing authority and are funded through a combination of local property taxes, which flow from school districts; direct state aid; federal dollars; various grants; and sales of services.