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Commentary: Schools, businesses, families must work together to make students future-ready

Commentary: Schools, businesses, families must work together to make students future-ready

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What does it mean for Iowa high school graduates to be future ready?

Did you know that Gov. Kim Reynolds has set ambitious goals for Iowa to ensure that our state is “future ready”? Future Ready Iowa is an initiative to build Iowa’s talent pipeline, provide education or training beyond high school to acquire a living wage, expose careers today and in the future, and ensure that seventy percent of Iowa’s workforce has education or training beyond high school by 2025.

To reach this goal, Iowa schools will need to approach how they educate students much differently. This work includes helping preschool through 12th grade students experience authentic learning through projects and performances, teaching “soft skills” like collaboration and perseverance, and exploring hands-on technology through the world of work. In addition, students will need to learn how to apply content in new ways to solve real-world problems.

Jen Sigrist

Jen Sigrist

To a parent or community member, a school focused on being future ready will look quite different than the traditional classroom. Desks won’t be in rows. Students will be directing their own next steps to try and solve a problem or create a product and working in teams to reflect on their strengths and areas for growth.

Teachers are critical for future ready success. Relationships with students as well as knowledge of the content help create meaningful projects and just-in-time supports for learners. Technology is seen as a tool that helps learners unlock information, create new ideas, and collaborate with a network of resources. Rather than being the sole experts in the room, teachers become “activators” of learning and move from being in the front of the classroom to working with teams of students on their next steps, conferencing with students about implementing feedback, and providing pop-up lessons to help students avoid common misconceptions.

Schools, businesses and communities are partners in bringing this vision for learning into our schools. To create authentic experiences for all our learners, schools need business and community partners to share their expertise, ideas and time to create authentic learning opportunities. These integrated learning experiences help students find what they are (and aren’t) interested in, learn what jobs are available in our state, and make informed decisions about their steps in school and after they graduate.

Central Rivers Area Education Agency (CRAEA) is working closely with area school districts to create a vision for what graduates should know and be able to do in order to be future ready. In addition, CRAEA staff work closely with area teachers to adjust their teaching style as described above. This is exciting work that will help our state move closer to being an Iowa that is ready for our future!

Want more general information? Visit https://www.futurereadyiowa.gov/. Are you a member of the business community? Check out to learn more about how you can get involved.

Jen Sigrist is the executive director of Media & Technology with Central Rivers Area Education Agency. She can be reached at jsigrist@centralriversaea.org

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