Iowa Core Curriculum

Right Work, Right Time, Right People

What is the Iowa Core Curriculum?

The Iowa Core Curriculum is a statewide education program that is bringing learning to a deeper level by putting its main focus on the necessities of learning. It identifies the essential concepts and skills for grades kindergarten to 12th grade in the following subjects:

  • literacy
  • math
  • science
  • social studies
  • 21st century skills (financial, health, technology, civic, employability and global literacy.

What does it have to offer for Iowan students?

  • Challenging courses at the students level
  • prepare them for postsecondary education

What does it have to offer Iowan educators?

An educator will engage in a continuous improvement process to assure that essential subject matter is being taught and essential knowledge and skills are being learned.

What is a parent or community member's role?

They should support the common goal of increasing student achievement and preparing them for the 21st century.


One of the six Iowa Core Curriculum Outcomes is: District leaders and other educators monitor and use data to increase the degree of alignment of each and every student's enacted curriculum and other relevant educational opportunities to the Iowa Core Curriculum.

This thought comes from the idea that if district leaders and other educators monitor and increase the degree of alignment among the intended, enacted, and assessed curriculum, then the quality of instruction will improve and student learning and performance will increase.

Educators will need to know the following to understand the alignment:


The curriculum can be divided into three categories:

  1. Intended curriculum: the content target for the enacted curriculum, often captured in content standards or other similar documents
  2. Enacted curriculum: the content actually delivered during instruction in the classroom and other learning settings
  3. Assessed curriculum: the content that is assessed to determine achievement


The extent to which and how well all policy elements work together to guide instruction and, ultimately, student learning.


The direction in which alignment is examined can be broken down into two approaches:

  1. Horizontal Alignment: degree of match across two components within a single level
  2. Vertical Alignment: degree of match within one component across multiple levels


There are a wide variety of approaches to examining alignment, each of which examine different aspects of alignment relationships. They can be summarized as three dimensions:

  1. Topical/Conceptual Knowledge: Topics and info that students have to learn.
  2. Cognitive Complexity/Demand: What students are expected to do with the above knowledge.
  3. Emphasis: The extent to which topical/conceptual knowledge with complexity/demand are used by the intended, enacted, or assessed curriculum.

Level of Analysis

When engaging in a test of alignment in any direction, along any dimensions, the specificity with which alignment is considered can vary along a continuum. This is referred to as "grain size."

  • Coarse-Grained: Tends to be global or general in nature
  • Fine-Grained: Specific, targeted, one-to-one correspondence.


What is full implementation of the Iowa Core Curriculum?

Each school district and accredited non-public school in Iowa is required to develop a written plan to describe their implementation of the Iowa Core Curriculum. This document provides a process to facilitate planning and a protocol for meeting the requirements to develp an implementation plan. It is an ongoing process of striving to meet the needs of all students.

The Department of Education defines full implementation as:

it is accomplished when the school or district is able to provide evidence that an ongoing process is in place to ensure that each and every student is learning the Essential Concepts and the Skill Sets of the Iowa Core Curriculum.

The legislated deadlines for this are as follows:

1. Respond to all outcomes and targets of the implementation plan:

  • July 1, 2010, for 9-12
  • July 1, 2012, for K-8

2. Complete an initial alignment of local content with Iowa Core Curriculum

  • July 1, 2012, for 9-12
  • 2013-2014, for K-8

3. Complete initial analysis of content, instruction, assessment, and steps to address gaps

  • July 1, 2012, for 9-12
  • July 1, 2014, for K-8