Local Iowa school districts are listening and responding as the state continues its push to boost student achievement.
It's a key element in education reforms being developed by Gov. Terry Branstad and staff before the next legislative session.
Inside Maquoketa High School, a tenth grade English class represents the future. The district's 1,500 students are aiming for the top. That's as Iowa works to improve its public education.
"There needs to be reforms," said Dr. Kim Huckstadt, Maquoketa's superintendent. "But there's a great deal of disagreement on how to go about doing that."
That's why Gov. Branstad came to the school on Friday. He's holding a series of Town Hall meetings across the state and gathering information on how to restore Iowa's education status.
"We know a great teacher can make a difference," he said. "We need teachers to be mentoring and helping others to improve their skills."
For teachers, that could mean more leadership, evaluations and rewards for boosting achievement.
As the governor learned during the last legislative session, building support for the reform package will take bipartisan support.
These fact-finding missions can mean a lot for Maquoketa schools and other local districts. It's a chance to look at the challenges and find solutions.
"Many of us are hoping that the vision for the future of Iowa schools will be clarified," said Dr. Huckstadt. "Our legislature, both sides of the aisle, will start to have meaningful conversations and find common ground so that we can move forward."
It also takes a caring community and families to step up. That's why Bill and Erin Wicke came to Friday's forum. They're parents of two grade school students in Maquoketa.
"They're the future," Bill said. "We're counting on them to lead the way."
That future is critical to Iowa schools. It's all about raising the bar to compete in a global economy.
The Town Hall findings will help Gov. Branstad to assemble his proposal. He'll unveil it during his Condition of the State speech early next year.
"We've got to work together to really set high expectations," Gov. Branstad concluded. "The young people of Iowa will have the opportunity, have the skills for the jobs of the future."
For these students, it's all about building a brighter future.