September 16, 2014

Analysis finds chance of hitting a deer drops slightly in Iowa

An analysis data by an insurance company shows the odds of hitting a deer on Iowa highways has dropped. State Farm spokesperson Ann Avery says the odds of hitting a deer in Iowa are now one in 77. “Even though on the national level U.S. drivers are nearly three percent more likely collide with a deer in the next 12 months, in Iowa drivers are 5.5 percent less likely to collide with a deer,” according to Avery.

The national odds of hitting a deer are one in 169. When it comes to the overall possibility of hitting a deer in the 50 states, Iowa’s again ranks in the top five. “Iowa still is ranked fourth in the country according to our information, so it’s something we really want to raise awareness about,” Avery says.

The slight drop in the potential for deer accidents in Iowa comes as the DNR says their program to cut the deer herd has proven successful. Avery says if you are one of the unlucky ones to hit a deer — it can be costly. “The national cost per claim average is $3,388 dollars. And that’s up 13.9 percent from last year,” according to Avery.

She says the best way to avoid running into a deer is to be defensive driver.  “We suggest you use extra caution in know deer zones, and of course always use your seatbelts. At night, use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic and avoid swerving when you see a deer,” Avery says. “We urge people to scan the road at all times for deer and other danger signs of course — and not to rely on devices such as deer whistles. Awareness and vigilance are your best approach.”

The months of November, October and December are the times when you are most likely to hit a deer in Iowa due to the hunting and mating seasons. Dusk and dawn are high risk times, as this is when animals are most often on the move.

Over half of Iowa schools on federal watch list, state officials call measures flawed

Department of Education director Brad Buck. (file photo)

Department of Education director Brad Buck. (file photo)

A state report card prepared to meet the requirements of the “No Child Left Behind” law shows more Iowa schools are on federal watch lists, but state officials say those lists aren’t a true indicator of what’s happening in schools.

The chief of the Department of Education’s information bureau Jay Pennington talked about the raw numbers for individual schools. “Based on 2013-14 performance, 737 of Iowa’s 1,356 public schools,or 54.4 percent, were identified in need of assistance,” Pennington says. “This an increase of the 47.2 percent that were identified as schools in need of assistance the year before.”

He also detailed the numbers at the district level. “In terms of districts, a total of 45 out of the 346, or 13-percent, were identified as districts in need of assistance (DINA) for the 14-15 school year. Which is up from the 11.8 percent of districts from the year before,” Pennington says.

Department of Education director Brad Buck joined Pennington on a conference call with reporters, and says while the report shows over half the schools are in need of assistance, it doesn’t show the whole story. “I’d like to emphasize that educators and students across the state are working harder than ever and they are focused on the right work. These students and educators deserve our support,” Buck says.

No Child Left Behind requires public schools and districts to meet what are called “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) state targets for the overall student population and for subgroups of students in third through eighth grade and 11th grade. “This year, an NCLB requirement that 100-percent of students demonstrate proficiency in math and reading took affect. There’s some growth factors that figure into this calculation, so it would not be correct to say that schools and districts that met AYP saw a 100-percent proficiency on the state assessment,” Buck says. “But it does mean that the target increased, so more of our schools have been labeled in need of assistance.”

Buck says the changing targets are a problem. “While I believe in accountability, No Child Left Behind has outlived its usefulness as a lever for improving student achievement. This is a flawed law that continues to unfairly label schools as failures,” according to Buck. “While most states have received waivers from key components of No Child Left Behind — in Iowa we must continue to follow the law in the absence of permanent relief.” Iowa has not received a waiver for NCLB because of its teacher evaluation system.

Buck says schools are given no credit for progress made if they are still behind the targets set in the law. He says the law does provide them with a wealth of data to be able to see how students are doing, which is important. But, he says other things need to change. “While there is some amount of willingness to take a look at student growth, really placing a heavier emphasis on student growth beyond proficiency would be an important thing to consider,” Buck says. Buck says there are several things Iowa does with schools that are restructuring to help students, and that restructuring needs to be figured more into how the districts are responding.

Pennington says there is some positive news in the report on schools making progress.”Thirty-seven districts this year were removed from the DINA or watch lists within NCLB for something — maybe they made it in reading or math for example,” Pennington says. “There were also 112 schools that were removed from the SINA or watch status, again for reading or test participation, just as a few examples.”

You can find out more about your school district at the Iowa Department of Education’s

Iowa State University part of alliance to help low-income, first-generation students graduate

Iowa State University’s provost, Jonathan Wickert, is in Washington, D.C. today with administrators from 10 other research universities to announce a program called the University Innovation Alliance. “The goal of the alliance is really to share innovations among the 11 schools that will help low-income and first-generation students succeed and get college degrees,” according to Wickert.

Wickert says the work will continue over the next three to five years. “We know that there is an achievement gap for low-income students — first to be able to come a university — and then actually be able to complete the program,” Wickert says. “And as we look at the nation’s workforce needs, we know that universities around the country need to redouble efforts to help those students.”

Each of the schools has been trying different approaches to the problem, and Wickert says that’s what he’ll find out about. “The entire concept behind the innovation is for each school to share the best practices that they have. So for us, we want to be able to learn from the other ten schools what has worked for them, and how we can deploy that here at Iowa State,” Wickert says.

He will share Iowa State’s use of what are called learning communities. “We’ve had learning communities at Iowa State University for about 20 years,” Wickert explains.”And we’ve found that it is a great program to improve the retention of students at the university, and also to increase their graduation rate. And we’ll be sharing with the other ten schools.”

The other the universities founding this project are: Arizona State, Georgia State, Michigan State, Oregon State, Purdue, Ohio State, University of Central Florida, University of Kansas, University of Texas at Austin, University of California, Riverside.



U-I studying canabis oil ingredient as a treatment for epilepsy

A clinical study of a marijuana derivative for treating epilepsy will soon get underway at the University of Iowa and other research sites. U-I Neurologist, Charuta Joshi, says the study will use an ingredient in cannabis oil called CDB that’s created by a British pharmaceutical company.

They want to see if it helps reduce seizures in some patients. “They have cloned their plants genetically. It is medication that you get. It is pure CBD that they are making. The study is going to be extremely rigorous.” Joshi says there is anecdotal evidence that cannabis oil has helped patients with untreatable seizure disorders.

She says this study will provide hard evidence of its effectiveness. “We will be recruiting parents not just from Iowa but across the state who want to participate in the study. I personally have about six or seven patients I have diagnosed in my time here. Not all of them will be part of the study. I know that,” Joshi says.

The Iowa legislature this year legalized possession of cannabis oil to treat children with a severe form of epilepsy.


Health Department finds more people looking for smoke-free homes

State health officials say the demand for smoke-free housing is increasing in the state. Sieglinde Prior oversees the Smoke-Free Housing Registry for the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). “We get a lot of calls hoping that we can help people who are looking for, or living in apartments already, and they are dealing with a smoker in the same building. They are hoping that there is some sort of legal venue to help them to get the smoker removed from that building,” Prior says.

Prior says there are no rules to keep smokers from living in an apartment. “They’re hoping that the Smoke Free Air Act — which was passed in 2008 — would deal with that, but it does not. The Smoke Free Air Act only deals with the common areas in a multi-unit complex,” Prior says.

She can help them by suggesting a place where they can live. “We have a registry and it is housed in a website called:,” Prior says. She says anybody can go there and click on the link to smoke-free housing. Prior says they will certify that the residence is indeed smoker-free.

“There are different levels, but the minimu that we require before we put a property into the registry is that at least one building is completely smoke-free. And they have no grandfathered residents living in that building,” Pior explains. She says they have partners that can work with landlords who want their rentals to be smoke-free.

Prior says they go out and have information and guides and if the property goes smoke-free, they can get free signage to advertise that they are smoke-free. The registry has 319 properties now listed. Prior says more builders of new rentals are considering making them smoke-free — with one reason being the cost. “The costs for preparing an apartment for reuse after a smoker has left is much higher — two to three to four times higher than if a non-smoker moves out,” Prior says.

The department is also working with another organization called “We are working with them so any property that we have in our registry, we will send it over to them, and they will mark it with a special icon that shows this property is on our registry and they meet these qualifications. Prior says a survey found nearly 75 percent of Iowans say they would choose a smoke-free apartment.


Dyersville man accused of selling meth near a playground

A Dyersville man is charged with two counts of distributing methamphetamine near a playground and one count of possessing pseudoephedrine for use in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

The charges against 29-year-old Robert John Mueller, allege that in June of this year, he distributed a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine within one-thousand feet of and playground in Dyersville called Candy Cane Park. Mueller faces a possible maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and a two-million dollar fine once he is sentenced.


Three Mason City residents sentenced in meth conspiracy

Three Mason City residents will go to jail for their involvement in a meth distribution ring. Forty-two-year-old George Lynn Perry, 42-year-old Angelita Gutierrez pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute meth and 47-year-old Dave Charles Schaer was found guilty by a jury.

The evidence showed all three were supplied with large quantities of meth, which they then sold. Perry and Gutierrez were each given a five-year sentenced. Schaer had a previous conviction on a felony drug charge, and was sentenced to 156 months in prison.