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Learning Supports Initiative

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The goal of the Learning Supports Initiative is reflected in the following quote from our Director:

"Each student is entitled to receive the supports needed to ensure that he or she has an equal opportunity to learn and to succeed in school... If every student in every school and community in Iowa is to achieve at high levels, we must rethink how student supports are organized and delivered to address barriers to learning." --Judy Jeffrey, 2004


Advisory Group

The development of this effort was supported by the Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development Steering Committee, a National Advisory Panel, a Design Team, Stakeholder Group, and multiple work groups. While no advisory currently exists, this effort is recognized and informally supported by several local and national consultants.

Special acknowledgment and appreciation must be given to the two consultants who helped to initiate these ideas, guide the work, and who continue to support efforts in Iowa. Dr. Howard Adelman and Dr. Linda Taylor, Co-Directors of the School Mental Health Project at UCLA, have worked with Iowa Department of Education Staff to craft the design and to help with implementation of the ideas contained in the concept paper: Developing out Youth: Fulfilling a Promise, Investing in Iowa's Future.

Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development Steering Committee (ICYD)

The ICYD Steering Committee is comprised of leadership from every state agency and office that serves the children and youth of Iowa. Learning Supports is a part of the ICYD strategic plan and leadership from across these departments share resources to help align youth development efforts at both the state and local levels.

Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development Steering Committee ( 2006-11-17 11:04:24)

National Advisory Panel

The advisory panel was organized early in the development of this effort to provide guidance on various aspects of the design. This group includes national experts that provided support and consultation on the concept paper during the design phase of the work in 2003-04.

National Advisory Panel ( 2006-11-17 11:05:25)

Design Team

An oversight team was organized to guide the direction of the development of the learning supports design during the initial phases in 2003-04. The Design Team met regularly with national consultants Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor to develop the ideas now contained in the concept paper. The Design Team also worked closely with and relied upon input from the Stakeholder Group to ensure that multiple perspectives were incorporated into the design.

Design Team ( 2006-11-17 11:03:01)

Stakeholder Group

A stakeholder Group was organized to garner input on the concepts of learning supports from the multiple perspectives of the participants. The Stakeholder Group met with national consultants Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor several times during the design phase. Initial meetings were used to collect ideas from the group to build the design. Following meetings were used to gather reactions of the group to the design as it evolved.

Stakeholder Group ( 2006-11-17 11:06:35)


Several groups were organized to work out details of the design. These groups were formed based on needs identified by the Design Team and the consultants Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor. All work completed by these groups was taken back to the Design Team and Stakeholder Group for their feedback and was then incorporated into the final concept paper

  • Data
  • Communications
  • Infrastructure
  • Intervention Frameworks
  • Policy


The Data Team reviewed all children and youth data collected by state agencies and identified those sources that were valid, reliable, and able to be disaggregated at one level below (typically county level) the state level. Those data sources became indicators of success that fit within the Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development Result Areas: See pages 7 & 8 of the learning supports Design paper.

Data Team ( 2006-11-17 14:07:34)



The Communication Team developed initial strategies for sharing the news of the learning supports design with local schools and communities.

Communications Team ( 2006-11-17 14:08:50)


This team outlined the design and functions of a learning supports team, called a resource management team. They focused on the integration of the learning supports design with that of the school improvement and professional development processes in Iowa. See pp. 23-30 of the Design paper.

Infrastructure Team ( 2006-11-17 14:10:27)

Intervention Frameworks

This team reviewed research from multiple fields related to and including positive youth development. Based on the work of this team and that of the national consultants, Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor, the group settled on six (6) areas of "content" for learning supports. See pp. 17--22 of the design paper.

Intervention Frameworks Team ( 2006-11-17 14:11:38)

Policy Work Group

This team focused on the code, policy, and practices that relate to learning supports. The group reviewed information from all state agencies that serve children, youth, and their families and strived to align their findings with existing school improvement requirements. The results of their work can be found in the Design paper on pp. 31--33.

Policy Work Group ( 2006-11-21 09:29:35)

Local and National Consultants

As work has progressed on the implementation of this learning supports design, additional consultants and experts have become involved in various aspects of this work. Some of these supportive professionals are included below:

Local and National Consultants ( 2006-11-21 09:31:07)


Funding Sources

Learning Supports currently exist in all schools and communities and have been traditionally funded through general budgets and grants. Efforts to improve and coordinate these services initially requires that schools dedicate resources and time to changing the way the school system functions. Limited resources to make these changes are available from the Department of Education, the Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development, and other organizations in the form of small grants and technical assistance.


For the latest information on federal, state, and local grant opportunities for learning supports in Iowa, go to: The monthly ICYD E-Files Newsletter includes a section on current funding opportunities and resources. Interested persons can also sign up to be notified of opportunities as soon as they are announced.

How to think about funding: One example

The previous section on Existing Supports explained how programs and services are frequently created independently of each other and are often in competition for the same resources. Similarly, schools frequently treat funding streams individually and don't explore the interconnectedness of the goals of those funding sources.

Currently Existing Supporting ( 2006-12-07 11:45:19)

The following graphic is an example from Salinas, California used by a Safe Schools/Healthy Students grantee to demonstrate the overlap of funding and how various funding streams can be used collectively to support students and help them overcome barriers to their learning.

Funding Pond ( 2006-12-07 11:46:22)

Tool 1: Looking at Staff Assignments--The following is one example of how a "typical" elementary school might think about staff assignments to develop a more steamlined and efficient structure for using existing resources of staff time.

Typical Elementary School ( 2006-12-07 14:50:51)

Tool 2: Looking at Programs and Services--The following "mapping" tool is intended to help schools and districts collectively look at their programs and services to determine overlap or gaps in learning supports. Once completed, this mapping tool could be used with student achievement data to determine priorities for future improvements.

This particular tool uses the Iowa framework of learning supports so that schools can identify what supports exist in each "content area" (e.g. Supports for Instruction, Safe Environments, Transitions, Youth Engagement, Family Involvement, and Community Partnerships). It is important to understand that all these supports are needed to form a comprehensive continuum of supports to ensure student success in school. While it is important to note that all these elements must be present, it is also important to mention that it is not the role of the school to provide all of these supports. Schools must collaboratively work with their families, neighborhoods and communities to build and maintain a continuum.

The first column asks for research-based strategies and an evaluation measure. All strategies should be listed so that all efforts are accurately reflected. Similarly, all strategies should be evaluated for quality of implementation as well as for results. This will help provide data to make decisions about what should continue, what else is needed, and what should be stopped. For more information on evaluation, performance measures and results go to: Guiding Practices on the Learning Supports website.

Resource Map ( 2006-12-07 14:52:54)

Technical Assistance
The content areas for learning supports (e.g. Support for Instruction, Transitions, Safe Environments, Youth Engagement, Family Involvement, and Community Partnerships) are very broad and contain many various types or programs, strategies, and services. Technical assistance opportunities are equally broad.

The first point of contact to find support for schools wishing to implement specific types of learning supports are the AEA Learning Supports Teams.

Additional information to access appropriate technical assistance is available from the State Contact: or 515-281-8514.

Specialized expertise is also available from the staff of Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development (ICYD) partners. For general information on training and technical assistance opportunities go to


Guiding Practices

To have an effective and efficient system of learning supports, five components must be present. Efforts must be designed based on long-term results and using quality data. Interventions must address the range of needs and be well coordinated. Infrastructure must be built to ensure that coordination and planning are integrated with other school improvement efforts. Supportive policies exist that are student and family friendly. And, the capacity of the school to focus on supports for learning must be developed and sustained. Explanations and examples are included on each of these pages.

Long-term results and using the above paragraph:
The Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development (ICYD)* partners, including the Iowa Department of Education, have agreed to work together to ensure that all Iowa children and youth are:

  • successful in school;
  • healthy and socially competent;
  • prepared for productive adulthood; and
  • in safe, supportive schools, families, and communities.

These results represent the collective responsibility of all the partners of ICYD since these areas are interconnected and interdependent. The Iowa Department of Education has chosen to take the lead role in ensuring that all Iowa children and youth are "successful in school", but also recognizes contributions that education systems make to all the other result areas.

As the system with responsibility for the results area "successful in school". the Department of Education has chosen to use NCLB indicators plus school connectedness indicator from the Iowa Youth Survey as measures for success in school. The following represent LEAD indicators and sources of data:

Result--All Iowa youth are Successful in school ( 2006-11-22 12:57:03)

Knowing that education systems also contribute to the other results areas (healthy and socially competent, prepared for productive adulthood, ling in safe environments), the following indicators are used as SUPPORTING indicators of success in school.

Result--All Iowa youth are healthy and socially competent ( 2006-11-22 12:58:37)

Result--All Iowa youth are prepared for productive adulthood ( 2006-11-22 13:00:50)

Result--All Iowa youth are in safe and supportive schools--families and communities ( 2006-11-22 13:03:02)

The Iowa design for Learning Supports groups the research and evidence-based practices into six content/programmatic areas. Together these areas form the structure of organizing, understanding, and selecting research-based interventions intended to address the needs of students who encounter barriers that interfere with their learning at school. The six content areas from the Learning Supports component are:

Supplements to Instruction ( 2006-11-22 14:37:56)

Family Supports and Involvement ( 2006-11-22 14:39:24)

icon Community Partnerships ( 2006-11-22 14:40:35)

Safe--Healthy and Caring Learning Environments ( 2006-11-22 14:42:31)

Transitions ( 2006-11-22 14:43:47)

icon Child--Youth Engagement ( 2006-11-22 14:46:26)

For each level of the education system in Iowa (SEA, AEA & LEA) to have a functional Learning Supports component, two elements must be present: effective leadership and resource management teams.

Resource management teams ( 2006-11-30 09:39:50)

Working together, leadership and resource management teams carry out two major core functions--those intended to build the capacity of systems to provide learning supports and those related to the actual development and implementation of a continuum of learning supports.

icon Capacity Building ( 2006-11-30 09:41:36)

In general, the functions of a learning supports system are no different than any continuous improvement planning cycle (e.g., the Iowa Comprehensive School Improvement Planning process); however, in implementation, specific functions related to learning supports will emerge that require rethinking infrastructure at all levels.

icon IA Comprehensive School Improvement Planning process ( 2006-11-30 09:43:33)

*More information on specific processes and activities for these core functions can be found in the concept paper.

Supportive policies
One step in ensuring a supportive school improvement/learning supports structure that promotes academic achievement and fosters healthy cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development is to review documents and practices that impact, either directly or indirectly, the school improvement system within the school district. Documents need to be gathered and practices identified prior to the review. The documents and practices can then be examined to determine if present practices need to be changed. Questions to ask in the review are:

  • Is the policy written, present, and implemented? Does it support, inhibit, or is it neutral towards successful implementation of the school improvement system?
  • Is the policy practiced, but not written? Does it support, inhibit, or is it neutral towards successful implementation of the school improvement system?
  • Is the policy written, but not practiced? Does it support, inhibit, or is it neutral towards successful implementation of the school improvement system?


iconCapacity ( 2006-11-30 10:04:40)


The Iowa design for Learning Supports is explained in the concept paper: "Developing Our Youth: Fulfilling a Promise, Investing in Iowa's Future". This design is intended to demonstrate the continuum of supports that students need to be ready and able to learn. The graphic below shows the range of readiness for learning and how many students are "blocked" from success when barriers to their learning exist. The "learning supports" that are needed to achieve success are grouped into six areas that appear in the lower right corner.

Developing Our Youth: Fulfilling a Promise, Investing in Iowa's Future ( 2006-11-30 13:23:52)

The extensive body of research creates the "content" of Learning Supports and is organized into these categories:

Supplements to Instruction ( 2006-11-22 14:37:56)

Family Supports and Involvement ( 2006-11-22 14:39:24)

icon Community Partnerships ( 2006-11-22 14:40:35)

Safe--Healthy and Caring Learning Environments ( 2006-11-22 14:42:31)

Transitions ( 2006-11-22 14:43:47)

icon Child--Youth Engagement ( 2006-11-22 14:46:26)


April 2010--Learning Supports Workshops

Dr. Osher Keynote:

Iowa Keynote

Dr. Brooks Handouts:

Learning Supports Mockup

The New School Year

NASP Safe School

Violence at Red Lake

Student Ownership

Student Mindset

Teacher Mindset

January 2006--Learning Supports 101: A basic explanation of learning supports and the structures within the educational system.

icon Learning Support Overview Short Version ( 2006-11-30 13:54:45)

May 2006--The Iowa Professional Development Model and Learning Supports: A short discussion of how learning supports fit within the Iowa Professional Development Model (IPDM).

Learning Supports and Professional Development ( 2006-11-30 13:56:22)


Learning Supports Graphic Continuum Mapping Guide

icon Fall 2006--Iowa Youth Survey Alcohol Tool ( 2006-11-30 13:57:41)


Calendar of Events

Learning Supports--Safe, Caring, Healthy Learning Environments Workshops
Agenda for June 18th & 19th


Contacts in your Area

Each AEA has designated an AEA Learning Supports Team focused on Organizing supports for their agency as well as for local schools and their community partners. A few schools and districts that have dedicated time and resources to organizing their student support services using these ideas and have been identified as Learning Supports Field Test Sites. For more information on becoming a field Test Site, Contact

AEA Learning Supports Team

AEA Learning Supports Contacts


Supporting Links

Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development
Provides information on positive youth development efforts, opportunities for training and technical assistance, grant updates, and other links to state level data, programs, and services.

UCLA School Mental Health Project
This site provides exhaustive information on policy, research, technical support, and developing comprehensive systems of learning supports to help students overcome barriers to learning.

Iowa's Promise Station
Iowa is a State of Promise affiliated with the official America's Promise initiative created under the direction of Colon Powell. The site offers ideas for promotion of the five promises to youth and to the general public with ways that everyone can become involved in positive youth development.

Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice
Information and resources are available on issues such as child welfare, families, school violence prevention and intervention, mental health, functional behavioral assessment, prevention strategies, and strength-based assessment.

Collaborative for the Advancement of Social & Emotional Learning (CASEL)
This site contains extensive information and research on social and emotional programs and strategies that support positive youth development and success in school.

Pathways to School Improvement, NCREL
Research and best practice information is available on K-12 Comprehensive School Improvement, information systems for school improvement, literacy, mathematics and science, technology, and several other topics.

OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports
Information is provided on positive behavioral supports, implementation, and using data to improve school climate.

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on November 29, 2015 at 1:28am.