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violinMany times I hear people say, “Teachers have their summers off.” That’s a comment that makes me smile because so many in our communities do not realize how much preparation takes place during the summer months.

In our district, over half of our staff recorded June curriculum writing days as well as attended workshops on science standards and best practices in math instruction. Others spent time learning about common classroom assessment, attended Project Lead the Way workshops, and extended their knowledge at conferences on instructional coaching. Many took continuing education courses and graduate classes. Time is the cost we are willing to spend to ensure we are ready to provide our students with meaningful instruction during the school year.

When preparing for this school year, it would be time well spent exploring the Educator Resources webpage located on the Iowa Core website. Besides containing a list of all standards for content areas, you find near the top of the Iowa Core website on the right hand side three gray or yellow boxes – Iowa Core Standards, Educator Resources, and Parents & Community. Clicking on Educator Resource takes you to useful information on Subject Area Pages, Instructional Resources, Implementation Resources, and Assessment Resources.

Subject Area Pages: This resource provides links in three areas – mathematics, science, and social studies. Those seeking best practice information and professional development opportunities should check this out since numerous links are provided for tools to design instruction, tools to engage in assessment, and tools to use in professional development.

In addition to the tools, other useful connections are provided. Mathematics resources include links to Achieve the Core and the Illustrative Mathematics website. Science resources include an overview of the Iowa science standards. Social studies resources give information on statewide social studies professional development, links to a newsletter, and information on the status of the social studies survey conducted by the Iowa Department of Education. For those who missed the social studies professional development last year (year 1), there is a link provided on AEA PD Online for the course Building Literacy in Social Studies.

Instructional Resources: This resource provides information on Cognitive Complexity – Depth of Knowledge (DOK) as well as links to Iowa Learns, Achieve the Core, and EngageNY. Clicking on the link for Iowa Learns provides digital resources for teaching and learning.  There are numerous links where you can browse by grade, by subject, by standard, or by resource type leading to lessons aligned with standards.

Implementation Resources: This section will guide educators in Iowa Core planning with modules for professional development in the areas of Characteristics of Effective Instruction, common core video series, instructional practice guides, PD resources, facilitator’s guides including PowerPoints and hands-on activities. Also provided is information on Universal Constructs, and for those districts looking into a Standards-Based approach to learning, there are several modules to provide assistance with this shift.

Assessment Resources: For those educators desiring to learn more about assessment, resources are provided on Smarter Balanced Assessments, Assessment for Learning, as well as a Performance Assessment Resource Bank. Resources in Project-Based Learning and ideas for developing assessments for Next Generation Science Standards are also included. Along with assessment resources, a description is provided on the Common Core Shifts in ELA and Mathematics Assessment.

Back on the Educator Resources page, along with numerous tools to enhance instruction and professional development, there are also links to Iowa Core articles and an Iowa Core Spotlight of Iowa educators providing personal insight on their journey with Iowa Core implementation. Those spotlighted share their journey and their passion for providing quality instruction that is standards driven.

This school year holds much promise for continuous improvement in the quality of instruction in our districts in Iowa. With instructional coaches in buildings and staff organized into professional learning communities, educators are ready to move forward with developing collective clarity on the meaning behind the Iowa Core standards resulting in shared learning targets. The process of improving instructional practices takes time and commitment, but as we come back refreshed and ready for the push, we come back ready to learn right alongside our students and co-workers. The Educator Resources on the Iowa Core website provide one way to enhance professional learning that can take place individually or collaboratively.

As H.E. Luccock stated, “No one can whistle a symphony, it takes a whole orchestra to play it.” May your school year be filled with beautiful music.

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