Judy Jeffrey announced yesterday that she is retiring as the Director of the Iowa Department of Education. She has been a tremendous supporter of revamping the ways that Iowa schools do business. Her signature legacies may be the Iowa Core and the Authentic Intellectual Work projects, both of which focus on students doing higher-level cognitive work in Iowa classrooms. If we can get both of these implemented AT SCALE (the first is a statewide initiative but the second is only in a few pilot schools), we may actually move Iowa classrooms significantly in directions they need to go.

We are seeing progress on other needed fronts. The number of school districts in Iowa that are implementing 1:1 laptop projects has gone from 6 (2008–2009) to 15 (2009–2010) to perhaps as high as 40 next year (which would be over a tenth of Iowa districts). Some conversations about increasing online learning opportunities for Iowa schoolchildren (currently our offerings are quite meager) seem to be reopening. The discussions that are occurring among Iowa school administrators about moving their school systems forward seem much more robust than they did when I arrived in the state three years ago, thanks to the tremendous thought leadership and professional development that the School Administrators of Iowa has been providing on this front. I am hopeful that we will make some headway on some other essential building blocks that we need to put in place (see my post on educational technology policy priorities and my Iowa series).

Of course all of this could come to a screeching halt. A change in governors and/or the state legislature would bring new policy priorities. A change in Director brings with it the possibility of someone coming in with different beliefs about where the state education system should be headed. We need someone who can keep the momentum going. Who can take the ideas embedded in the Iowa Core and get them implemented well at the local level. Who can change the belief systems of Iowa educators and citizens about what schooling should look like. Who can find ways to facilitate the other necessary structural supports that need to be in place to create a system of schooling that prepares our graduates for the next half century, not the last half century.

I know who I’d like to see as the new Director (anyone got the Governor’s ear?!). How about you?