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Background on the Iowa Core Essential Elements for Science

The Iowa Core Essential Elements for Science (EEs) are specific statements of knowledge and skills linked to the grade-span expectations and represent the most frequently assessed alternate standards in DLM Science states identified in the 2012 Framework for Science Education. As such, this set of Essential Elements addresses a small number of science standards, representing a breadth, but not depth, of coverage across the entire standards framework. The purpose of the Iowa Core Essential Elements is to build a bridge from the content in the general education science framework to academic expectations for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. This version of the Essential Elements will provide content for science assessments. The DLM Science Consortium intends to develop a learning map based on research about how students learn science content and engage in scientific and engineering practices in the next phase of the project. Revisions will be made when the science map is complete, at which time we anticipate the EEs will be aligned to the map with revisions and additions as appropriate. DLM science member states will be given one to two years notice of revised EEs, so educators can adjust their instruction before new assessments are delivered.

The DLM EEs were developed in a four-stage process from August to December 2014. The development of the first draft began with guidance from the DLM Science states to develop Essential Elements for three grade spans: elementary school (represented by grade 5 standards), middle school, and high school (including Essential Elements appropriate for end-of-course high school biology). A crosswalk of DLM states’ science standards identified common cross-grade topics in the domains of physical science, life science (from which the high school biology topics were identified), and earth/space science. Most states’ science standards included scientific investigation practices, typically integrated into the core content areas. States selected core content for Essential Element development that is common across states; shows strong progressions across grades; and is most important for students with significant cognitive disabilities to be prepared for college, career, or community life. The DLM science standards framework approved for EEs development identified the number of standards to address by grade and domain.

Another important consideration for Essential Element development concerned the number of linkage levels to include in the EEs. The DLM Essential Elements for English language arts and mathematics contain five linkage levels. It was recommended that the EEs use three levels, which would allow for development of the science map to support additional linkage levels that are based on research and evidence.

The format of the EEs includes the domain, Core idea, topic, and state standard for general education. The Essential Element description at the target, precursor and initial levels as well as connections to science practices, crosscutting concepts and DLM ELA and mathematics EEs when available.