The only organization dedicated solely to helping state boards advance equity and excellence in public education.

Iowa State Education Chief Ryan Wise Honored as NASBE Policy Leader of the Year

For Immediate Release: September 7, 2017
Contact: Renée Rybak Lang, 703.740.4841,

Iowa State Education Chief Ryan Wise Honored as NASBE Policy Leader of the Year

Alexandria, Va. – The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) is pleased to honor Dr. Ryan Wise, director of the Iowa Department of Education, as its 2017 Policy Leader of the Year. The award is given annually to a national or state policymaker in recognition of his or her contributions to education.

Dr. Wise has made improving education for all students the keystone of his career. He first came to Iowa in 2012 to facilitate a state task force that laid the foundation for Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) System, the centerpiece of an education reform package adopted by state legislators in 2013. That work formed the basis for Wise’s doctoral capstone and has defined his tenure with the Iowa Department of Education.

In 2015, then governor Terry Branstad appointed Dr. Wise as Iowa’s state education chief. Dr. Wise had served as deputy director for two years. Since his appointment as state chief, he has overseen full implementation of Iowa’s TLC System and cemented the state’s position as the national leader in strengthening the teaching profession. Today, more than 9,000 Iowa teachers hold formal, compensated leadership roles designed to strengthen instruction and improve student learning. The program has paved the way for stronger, more frequent teacher collaboration and peer-led learning across the state and is regarded as one of the nation’s most comprehensive teacher leadership systems.

Dr. Wise has prioritized other bold, statewide education initiatives to prepare students for success in high school and beyond. These include an effort to ensure Iowa students are proficient readers by the end of third grade, a redesign of career and technical education, ongoing development and revision of Iowa’s academic standards, investment in early literacy, and a strong, innovative state ESSA plan.

“Dr. Wise has approached far-reaching statewide policy initiatives with a spirit of transparency and collaboration,” said Iowa State Board of Education Member Brooke Axiotis, who nominated Wise for the award. “He has been an important partner for our state board, and we are thrilled to be able to recognize and celebrate his accomplishments on a national stage.”

Prior to joining the Iowa Department of Education, Dr. Wise was managing director for growth strategy and development for Teach for All from 2008 to 2010. From 2003 to 2008, he was the executive director of Teach for America in South Dakota, where he worked with public and Bureau of Indian Affairs grant schools on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations to improve educational opportunities. Dr. Wise began his career as a history teacher at Omaha Central High School in Omaha, Nebraska, and Rosa Fort High School in Tunica, Mississippi.

“I’m deeply grateful for this award, although it represents something much larger than one person. This award exemplifies all Iowans who have worked together to make our schools into places where adults can collaborate and students can thrive. I visit schools across the state each week to stay connected to the classroom, and it’s inspiring to see how statewide improvement efforts are making a difference,” said Dr. Wise.

“The Policy Leader of the Year award is the highest honor that state board of education members can bestow,” said NASBE President and CEO Kristen Amundson. “Dr. Wise has accomplished so much for the state of Iowa in such a short time. Because of his efforts and long-standing commitment to educational excellence for all students, Iowa is quickly becoming a national leader in education.”

The 2017 Policy Leader of the Year Award will be presented to Dr. Wise on Friday, November 3, 2017, at NASBE’s national conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

The National Association of State Boards of Education represents America’s state and territorial boards of education. Our principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, promote excellence in the education of all students, and ensure responsible lay governance of education. Learn more at


Featured Items

Engaging All Students

Authors explore the reasons why students increasingly feel uninspired and disengaged at school and outline steps state leaders can take to help schools and districts increase students’ engagement and connectedness.
Image Credit: iStock i

Beyond Testing for Lead in Drinking Water: Implications for Funding

While most states encourage or require schools to test for lead in drinking water, funding to sustain remediation lags—despite significant federal grants designed to boost those efforts.

Annual Conference 2023

Registration is now open for this year's Annual Conference, October 25-28, in sunny San Diego. Join us!

Upcoming Events

From the States