Our students need every advantage to regain lost ground and move forward


The school year is officially underway and the 5,000 educators and over 65,000 students served by our agency are embarking on yet another academic year under the cloud of COVID-19. While the start of a new year always brings refreshed enthusiasm, this year also brings with it a renewed commitment to ensuring that student learning remains the focus despite the noise of the pandemic humming steadily in the background.

School leaders and school boards continue to be in the middle of heated exchanges among constituents regarding the debate about mitigation strategies like mask wearing and vaccines. In addition, strong and opposing views about topics such as how to approach equity education have also created some tension in our local communities.

Regardless of our individual views and passions around these topics and others, we all owe it to our students to stay focused on their learning and offer grace to the adults in our school system, including school board members, who have our children’s best interests at heart. When students see the adults around them modeling civil conversations, respecting opposing views, and valuing the institution of education, chances are greater that they will as well.

Educators continue to face steep challenges. Many students are still catching up to their peers in core subjects like reading, math and science. This is best addressed through the creation of personalized learning paths and the use of assessment practices that give teachers ongoing feedback. Personalized or tailored learning is an approach that adapts learning experiences to a student’s strengths and areas of improvement. Central Rivers Area Education Agency staff are helping local educators learn more about this approach along with how to attend to students’ social and emotional learning needs which has also been shown to have a positive impact on closing the learning gap. Our staff are partnering with your local schools every step of the way.

School leaders are listening, learning, and refining age old practices based on what the pandemic has taught us. In response, we are retooling our services as an agency to be supportive and responsive to what those we serve need.

This fall, I invite you to partner with your local school district and become an active advocate for your child’s education and the educators in your community. Students need every advantage to regain lost ground and move forward…and when adults work together, the odds are much better that they will.

Sam Miller Central Rivers AEA Chief Administrator
Sam Miller is the Chief Administrator at Central Rivers Area Education Agency, based in Cedar Falls. He can be reached at smiller@centralriversaea.org. Central Rivers Area Education Agency provides leadership and service to 53 public and 18 non-public schools in an 18-county area of north central Iowa. Learn more at www.centralriversaea.org.