It has been 10 years since the Legislature first established the Iowa Core Standards as the required standards for all Iowa students. We have learned through different professional development: leadership training, Investigations, Deeper Investigations. Certainly by now, everyone knows everything they need to know to implement the Iowa Core, right? It would be a mistake to make that assumption.
The Iowa Department of Education’s Bureau of Standards and Curriculum is hard at work to ensure that the Iowa Core standards are the best for K-12 students and that we support the best resources and materials to implement them. Since the adoption of the Iowa Core standards, former Governor Terry Branstad issued Executive Order 83, which requires that the Department of Education maintain a regular cycle of standards review to continually improve the standards. This means that the standards will change as Iowa’s students learning needs change; the standards will continue to be updated so they always represent our best thinking about what students should know and be able to do.
This also means that the state may be adopting new sets of standards, as we did in the cases of science and social studies. We’ve learned going from adoption to implementation usually takes a three- to four-year plan. We are in the first year of our Social Studies implementation plan. The plan directs teachers and teacher teams to attend the Area Education Agency-led social studies standards overview professional development. Using information from that training, teachers need to identifying and gather materials and resources they’ll use to teach to the standards. Social studies teachers are strongly encouraged to use the Best Practices Rubric to reflect on their current teaching practices. Through reflection, educators can determine if best practices are the focus of their instruction. These are two important actions every social studies teacher should be taking and there are others outlined in the plan, in addition to actions for districts, AEAs, instructional coaches, and parents.
While Social Studies is focused on learning the new standards, science, in year three of its four-year Implementation Plan, is focused on implementing the standards in every K-12 science classroom in the state. The Science Implementation Plan spells out yearly actions for teachers, teacher mentors and model teachers, districts, and AEAs. This year, all educators should continue to attend professional development. The focus of the training is on gathering and using evidence of three-dimensional learning. Teachers should regularly be using resources such the EQuIP rubric to evaluate lessons, units of instruction and instructional resources and modify lessons/materials to more completely align with all dimensions of the standards.
Literacy and Mathematics are launching a new Iowa Core Advocate Network this fall. Through monthly webinars, Iowa Core advocates will gain a deeper understanding of the shifts required by the Iowa Core and the best standards-aligned resources, tools and instructional practices in English/language arts and mathematics. This network is a community of teachers, teacher leaders, instructional coaches, AEA consultants, and others interested in learning more about the shifts and their impacts on instruction. Also, the Iowa Core advocate will be keeping abreast of the best tools available to support standards implementation. Interested educators can register by completing the Iowa Core Advocate Sign-Up Form:
In addition to the required standards, the Department now has undertaken the writing and approval of voluntary standards, beginning with Fine Arts standards, the first set to go before the Board of Education this November. In addition, the Department has convened a highly qualified group of computer science stakeholders to make recommendations regarding writing standards in that curriculum area.
So, while standards may seem like “old news,” we are working to make sure they represent the best current thinking around academic learning K-12 and that we have the best support possible for schools and teachers. The content consultants in the Bureau of Standards and Curriculum are passionate about their respective content areas and it shows in the work that they do. I have been a lead on the Iowa Core since its inception and I have never been more excited about the work that we are doing and its potential to impact Iowa’s students.