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Getting Ag Credit to Count

Each letter of STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—supports what it takes to feed billions of people across the world. Agricultural education is STEM education, and the success of Iowa’s future depends on equipping students with the tools and pathways they need to pursue a career in agriculture.

Fortunately, school districts across the state have opportunities to make agricultural science education more of a priority in their school systems. Those school districts currently offering agriculture courses to their students can make those credits count towards high school graduation in a different way beyond elective credits and help students meet the Regent Admission Index (RAI) to attend Iowa’s universities.

For example, Agricultural Science courses currently offered that satisfy the Iowa Academic Standards for Life Science, Chemistry or Physics may be allowed to substitute for those courses if 1) instructors are endorsed to teach such courses and 2) the school board approves of the substitution. One example Agricultural Science curriculum well-established in Iowa that satisfies Iowa Academic Standards in science subjects is CASE (Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education).

To make this happen, your school district can learn about the processes already in place that have worked for other schools across Iowa:

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High school agriculture classes can now count toward the Regent Admission Index (RAI) allowing students more opportunity to qualify for higher education at Iowa State University, The University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa. Here’s how:

  1. Review the list of RAI codes.
  2. Review your high school agriculture science course.
  3. Identify which RAI code the content may align with. Animal science-focused agricultural science courses may align with RAI coded Zoology, for example, and plant-focused agricultural science courses may align with RAI coded Botany. That decision is made at the district level, possibly involving school board approval. Provided as an example guideline below are the alignments proposed by the designers of the CASE program. If your high school agriculture course is a CASE course, then the following alignments are recommended*:
CASE Course & RAI Code
CASE CourseRAI Code
CASE: Ag Science – AnimalRAI Code: 03061 Zoology
CASE: Ag Science – PlantRAI Code: 03058 Botany
CASE: Animal & Plant BiotechRAI Code: 03158 Life Science
CASE: Food Science & SafetyRAI Code: 03158 Particular Topics in Chemistry
CASE: Ag Power & TechRAI Code: 03162 Particular Topics in Physics
CASE: Mechanical Systems in AgRAI Code: 03162 Particular Topics in Physics
CASE: Natural Resources & EcologyRAI Code: 03003 Environmental Science
CASE: Environmental Science IssuesRAI Code: 03009 Particular Topics in Earth Science
  1. Work through your local process to match each agriculture course to an RAI code. This may include school board approval or some other process unique to your school.

Relevant Resource: 

*The RAI Code recommendations were proposed in 2016 upon review of the courses and RAI codes available by ag teachers comprising the Iowa Ag Ed Advisory Council and approved by the STEM Council Working Group focused on ag for science credit.

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High school agriculture science classes can count toward student graduation requirements. Here’s how:

  1. Ensure your agriculture teacher is certified to teach the science subject being considered for substitution (e.g., Biology, Chemistry, Physics). More than half of agriculture teachers in Iowa also carry an endorsement in a science area, principally biology.
  2. Identify which agriculture classes contain enough science content to qualify as a science course per local school board requirements. Animal science-focused agricultural science courses may align with Human Biology, for example, and Agricultural Science courses focused on matter, energy and mechanical principals may align with Physics or Physical Science and so forth. The designers of the CASE program offer the following recommendations for review of alignment:
    1. Ag Science – Animal (general science credit)
    2. Ag Science – Plant (general science credit)
    3. Animal & Plant Biotech (general science credit or possible biology or life science credit)
    4. Food Science & Safety (general science credit or possible chemistry credit)
    5. Ag Power & Tech (general science or possible physics credit)
    6. Mechanical Systems in Ag (general science credit or possible physics credit)
    7. Natural Resources & Ecology (general science credit)
    8. Environmental Science Issues (general science credit or possible Earth science credit)
  3. Identify how many agriculture classes would be designated as CTE courses and how many would be designated as science courses. The school districts need to maintain at least three agriculture courses designated as CTE courses to meet state vocational education requirements.
  4. Work through your local process to approve selected agriculture courses to count as science credits to meet high school graduation requirements. This may include school board approval or some other process unique to your school.
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Parents, Guardians & Students

High school agriculture classes can be a great way for students to learn hands-on application of many STEM concepts. Agriculture classes can potentially count toward science graduation requirements and/or college entrance admissions requirements. To make that happen, first start by talking to your school administrators and counselors to see if this is an option for you or your student.
Here's an example of what to say and how to reach out:

Dear [Superintendent/Counselor],

I understand that it is possible for Agricultural Science classes to count for substitution of required and elective science classes in special circumstances determined at the local school district level. I would like to determine if my son's/daughter's [Ag. science course name] taught by [Ag. science course instructor] could possibly count towards high school science graduation and college admissions requirements. My [son/daughter/myself] [insert name] really enjoys the hands-on learning of these classes. Please consider approving the [agriculture course name] for science credit and visit to learn more about the pathways for approval.


[Parent/Guardian/Student Name]

CASE in Iowa: Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education - An example of a model Agricultural Science curriculum well-established in Iowa that satisfies the Iowa Academic Standards in Science.

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