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It’s American Education Week

That’s a good time to celebrate Iowa’s superb schools

Since the earliest days in our state’s history, Iowans have understood that schools are important to the proper development of youngsters to help ready them to assist in building a bright future for their communities and state. Not long after farmsteads began to fill Iowa’s landscape, they were accompanied by a vast network of one-room country schools. They are long gone, but that impressive commitment to making education a top priority has remained strong. It has kept the Hawkeye State near the top nationally in terms of test scores and high school graduation rates.

This week is American Education Week. It celebrates the importance of education to the nation. The goal is to focus public attention on the key roles educators and school systems play in our society. It also is intended to build awareness of how vital it is that parents work collaboratively with teachers to help children take full advantage of their educational opportunities.

This annual observance began almost a century ago when the National Education Association and the American Legion worked in partnership to build greater support across the land for public education. This collaboration came about in part because community leaders were distressed to discover that about one quarter of the draftees for service in World War I were illiterate.

Not surprisingly, Iowans were early champions of creating a week to promote education. In 1921, the NEA Representative Assembly in Des Moines called for designation of one week each year to highlight the importance of education. With backing from both the American Legion and the NEA, the first American Education Week occurred in December 1921.

Today this annual event takes place each year during the week prior to the week in which Thanksgiving is observed. Over the decades, the sponsorship has grown well beyond the American Legion and the NEA to include the National PTA, the American Legion Auxiliary, the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Counselor Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National School Public Relations Association, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Take some time this week to reflect on how you can help your local schools accomplish their absolutely vital mission. The quality of the school system is among the most important determinants of a community’s long-term prospects. The quality of an area’s schools has an enormous impact on economic development. Businesses seeking to expand or relocate pay close attention to the quality of the schools that will serve their workers’ children. Perhaps most importantly, preparing young people to be men and women of character who have the knowledge and skills to keep our society vibrant is vital to the future of every community and our entire nation.