At St. Edmond Catholic School's Parent University Wednesday, parents became more informed about their children's education.
Dr. Jason Glass, director, Iowa Department of Education, discussed the current state of education reform in Iowa, and Detective Cory Husske, Fort Dodge Police Department, spoke about cyberbullying.
Glass talked first about creating "high-performing educational systems" in Iowa and making the state's schools No. 1 in the world again. In 2011, Iowa schools failed to rank the highest in the nation.
"It's not the case that our schools are worse than they were," he said. "We've flatlined, while others schools have improved."
Reform can be achieved by focusing on three areas, Glass said: attracting quality teachers, adopting standards and providing specialized instruction.
Quality teachers can be obtained with better pay and benefits. Students aren't attracted to education as a career because of the "pay and the status of the profession," Glass said.
"We have to stop declaring war on teachers," he said. "We need to find ways for our educators to collaborate, work together, learn from each other and solve problems students bring in. The team is greater than the individual."
Specialized curriculum to meet student needs is also vital, Glass said. General instruction techniques work for 80 percent of students. Teachers need to adapt to help the other 20 percent.
"We're going for a system where every educator knows what they're doing, knows if it's working, and knows what to do if it's not," he said.
Standards for instruction are equally important, Glass said. The Iowa Core Curriculum follows federal guidelines to achieve better results, though its adoption remains a controversy.
"Folks, this is reading and math," he said. "Not particularly contentious subject matter. You can teach religious or controversial materials, in the context of good reading and math instruction."
Husske spoke on the issue of cyberbullying, first addressing the mentality most parents have.
"You think your child isn't a part of this," he said. "To a certain degree, I would beg to differ."
Students as young as nine are already being bullied or bullying using technology.
According to Husske, "Technology isn't going anywhere."
The FDPD defines cyberbullying as the deliberate misuse of technology to communicate mean-spirited messages from one person to another, Husske said.
"Students who have admitted to cyberbullying explained it's easier to send a victim a message because many times that message contains words they would not feel comfortable using in person," he said.
A new type of virtual bully has emerged, one "I didn't see coming," Husske said. These students would not be inclined to behave this way in reality or if faced with an actual victim, he said.
Children are actually committing suicide over these issues, Husske said, and 90 percent of victims will not notify parents or trusted adults because they fear it will make the problem worse.
Parents' perception does not matter, Husske said, only the student's perception. Parents and teachers must take cyberbullying seriously.
"You don't know how far to the limit they are, and what decisions they might be getting ready to make," he said.
Psychological and emotional scars caused by cyberbullying are considered equal to or greater than physical bullying because the victim is frequently unaware of who or how many bullies there are, and feel overwhelmed. And the bullying doesn't stop when school ends.
One piece of advice Husske gave parents: Know your children's passwords for everything. It could make a difference.