Iowa History Advisory Council issues recommendations on Iowa history education
Gov. Terry Branstad was joined at the Administration’s weekly press conference today by Stefanie Wager from the Iowa Department of Education and Director Mary Cownie from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to announce the Iowa History Advisory Council’s recommendations on ways to improve Iowa history education in schools statewide. Gov. Branstad was also joined by Jackson Elementary School Principal Cindy Wissler, third-grader Owyn Bucklin, and Tom Morain, Iowa History Advisory Council member and former administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa.
The Iowa Department of Education convened the Iowa History Advisory Council in November 2015 at the direction of Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. Members surveyed nearly 600 teachers statewide, considered education practices in other states, and examined what is currently in place in Iowa.
“I’ve always had a passion for Iowa history,” said Branstad. “I believe the emphasis on our state’s history needs to be a priority in our classrooms. That’s why I asked the Iowa Department of Education to form the Iowa History Advisory Council to recommend ways that we can improve Iowa history education. I’m pleased that the diverse make-up of the Iowa History Advisory Council has put forth strong recommendations to ensure that our students have a better understanding of Iowa’s fascinating past.”
The Iowa History Advisory Council, made up of a student, teachers, college professors, as well as members representing a wide range of history organizations, made 11 recommendations:
- Develop recognition programs to celebrate Iowa history and awards that recognize outstanding Iowa history teaching.
- Investigate developing online Iowa history courses for high school and college students as well as K-12 social studies teachers.
- Create a variety of Iowa history curriculum materials that support new Iowa history standards and promote best practices in the teaching and learning of state and local history.
- Recognize the importance of a state historian to tell Iowa’s story and advocate for Iowa history in K-12 schools.
- Encourage Iowa public and private colleges and universities to offer Iowa history classes and create professorships whose focus is Iowa history.
- Encourage educator preparation programs at Iowa public and private colleges and universities to require content in the field of Iowa history.
- Investigate greater accountability measures for the teaching of Iowa history and social studies in K-12 schools.
- Ensure adequate staffing within the education department of the State Historical Society of Iowa.
- Create and sustain a website to serve as the “hub” for Iowa history resources.
- Coordinate and promote professional development opportunities in Iowa history for Iowa teachers through the area education agencies, Iowa cultural partners, and higher education.
- Ensure the Iowa History Advisory Council continues to meet in order to promote the teaching and learning of Iowa history at the K-12 level.
“As a former social studies teacher, I appreciate the importance of state history,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said. “Students are more engaged in the study of history when they can make direct connections to their daily lives.”
The new recommendations coincide with a $100,000 grant the Library of Congress recently awarded the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs in order to digitize primary source materials from both the Library of Congress and the State Historical Museum of Iowa. The project will focus on a range of topics in Iowa history, including the Underground Railroad, Herbert Hoover and Iowa’s peacemaking role in the Cold War.
“We understand that teachers are often asked to do more with less. So we’re encouraged by this grant, which will give teachers handy, reliable tools to enrich their lessons with some of those key photos and documents that really bring Iowa history to life,” DCA Director Cownie said. “This project helps our staff of experts reach every corner of the state.”
“Iowans often assume that important events happened somewhere else and that important people lived somewhere else,” the report reads. “Iowa history remains mostly unknown and untaught. … It is the committee’s consensus that never has the opportunity for imbuing Iowa students with an appreciation for their heritage been greater.”
The full report can be found on the Iowa Department of Education’s website.