Last spring, the Iowa Department of Education sent its annual AEA Customer Survey to superintendents and all educators across the state. Nearly 900 educators rated the services of Northwest AEA in that last survey and here are some interesting points to share:

  • The services most used at the AEA are: professional development; media services; and curriculum, instruction and assessment services.
  • 82.9 percent strongly agree or agree that Northwest AEA is responsive to student learning needs.
  • 75.8 percent strongly agree or agree that the services of Northwest AEA result in improved student achievement.
  • 84.7 percent strongly agree or agree that the services they have received have assisted in improving their instruction or job-related practices.

There were two open-ended feedback sections about how Northwest AEA has been most helpful in their experiences and how AEA services could be improved to better assist educators. While the "most helpful" section outnumbered the "what could be improved" section by two to one, there were some trends that needed to be addressed for better outcomes. Some trends were identified by those surveyed who said:

  • They need more AEA staff time in the building/AEA staff spread too thin.
  • There were professional development concerns.
  • They were unsure of what the AEA does and how to access help.
  • They said it takes too long to get the children help.

To respond to these concerns, Northwest AEA has embarked on a program, along with every AEA at the state level, on Instructional Coaching. Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction by Jim Knight from the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning is the model Northwest AEA is implementing. This model is based on the KU strategies that have been supported for classroom instruction for over 30 years.

The Northwest AEA Instructional Coach model will include instructional coaches to support general education and special education strategists to support special education teachers and students with IEPs. These special education strategists will be spending more time with special education teachers and supporting students with IEPs in all educational settings.

Strategists licensed in the disciplines of school psychology, social work and special education consulting will support special education teachers in their efforts to improve instruction for students with IEPs. The instructional coaches will work to help general education classroom teachers with differentiated learning strategies. This model was designed specifically to respond to the past Northwest AEA Customer Survey results and the new statewide Child Find procedures.

Research has indicated that the biggest factor to improve student achievement is to improve the instructional practices in the classroom. This new model is designed to bring support and best practices to individual classrooms. 

Throughout this process if you have questions or feedback, please feel free to forward those to your building's regional facilitator, instructional coach or special education strategists.