Curriculum Newsletter

February 2014

iowa Pilots New Student Teaching Program

Two Iowa colleges have been chosen to collaborate with the Iowa Department of Education on a pilot project designed to explore whether there are better ways to deliver the educational experience to student teachers.

The University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls and Dordt College in Sioux Center will share in a $1 million allocation from the Iowa Legislature to pilot an expansion of the student teaching program to a yearlong experience. Student teachers in Iowa currently train for 14 consecutive weeks.


“Iowa produces very good teachers,” said Iowa Department of Education’s Larry Bice, an administrative consultant for educator preparation. “This pilot is an examination of ways that could make them even better.”


There are several defining characteristics involved in the pilot project.


“The pilot does several things,” Bice said. “It puts student teachers in the classroom for longer periods and gives them more extensive experience, as well as access to more feedback from teachers and university supervisors. The main thing is that it is more experience.”


Similar programs have been launched in other states -- most notably in Arizona -- which were designed to give teachers a better and more effective first-time experience in the classroom and, ultimately, improve quality.


The pilot is not meant to add workloads or coursework to aspiring teachers, but to give them more practical experience before they launch their careers.


“We don’t specify that the schools need to develop a model program around any particular formula,” Bice said. “For instance, you could be student teaching for four days and one day you’re taking classes, or you could student teach in the morning and take classes in the afternoon. We look forward to the colleges being creative.”


The pilot project will be conducted in the 2014-2015 school year. Though a one-year study is a pretty tight schedule, Bice said that will be enough to garner plenty of information.


“Each college will write a report on the project,” he said. “We can certainly learn from it. Whether we decide to make yearlong student teaching mandatory or not, we will still learn about student teaching itself, and that’s information that can be applied across the state.”


Source: Iowa Department of Education

Teacher Leadership Update

The Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) Committee will begin to develop our plan for how teachers will perform new leadership responsibilities in the future.

The goals of the TLC system are to:

The goals of the Teacher Leadership and Compensation System are:
  • Attract able and promising new teachers by offering competitive starting salaries and offering short-term and long-term professional development and leadership opportunities.
  • Retain effective teachers by providing enhanced career opportunities.
  • Promote collaboration by developing and supporting opportunities for teachers in schools and school districts statewide to learn from each other.
  • Reward professional growth and effective teaching by providing pathways for career opportunities that come with increased leadership responsibilities and involve increased compensation.
  • Improve student achievement by strengthening instruction.

Elementary Explores Standards-based Grading

The elementary teachers are having some discussions on standards-based grading.

What is standards-based grading?

In a standards-based system, teachers report what students know and are able to do relative to the Iowa Core and district standards and benchmarks or Learning Targets. The system includes:
  • The improvement of student achievement by focusing instruction and the alignment of curriculum with the required learning targets.
  • The mastery of defined learning targets instead of the accumulation of points.
  • The reporting of student achievement toward meeting learning targets at a given time by reflecting on mounting evidence based on various forms of assessments.
  • Standards-based grading and reporting will provide better communication to students, parents, teachers and administrators on what each student knows and is able to do according to the identified learning targets.
  • A record keeping system that provides teachers with information that allows them to adjust learning practices to meet the needs of students.
  • A system that encourages student reflection and responsibility on learning targets.

What are the purposes of standards-based grading ?

  • Align grading with learning target standards as measured by consistent and accurate student achievement data and common criteria for grading.
  • Ability to accurately communicate achievement of learning targets to students, parents and educators.
  • Clearly articulate and communicate student strengths and areas of growth to students and parents base on learning targets.

Sioux Central’s purpose for standards-based grading is to raise student achievement by clearly communicating students’ progress towards learning targets.

New Early Literacy Law

Iowa has passed a new early literacy law. We have many of these items already in place at Sioux Central. It is nice to know that we are already ahead of the game in some areas. However, we have some things we need to improve upon.

Iowa Code section 279.68 and 281--Iowa Administrative Code 62 promote effective evidence-based programming, instruction and assessment practices across schools to support all students to become proficient readers by the end of the third grade. General requirements of Iowa Code section 279.68 and 281--Iowa Administrative Code 62 are listed below. All requirements go into effect immediately and are expected to be implemented no later than August 1, 2014 unless otherwise indicated.
  • Provision of universal screening in reading for students in kindergarten through third grade
  • Progress monitoring for students who exhibit a substantial deficiency in reading
  • Provision of intensive instruction – including 90 minutes daily of scientific, research-based reading instruction - for students who exhibit a substantial deficiency in reading
  • Notice to parents that a student exhibits a substantial deficiency in reading, including strategies the parents can use at home to help the child succeed
  • Notice to parents of such a student’s subsequent progress
  • Provision of an evidence-based summer reading program for students who exhibit a substantial deficiency in reading (Effective May 1, 2017)
  • Retention of any student who is not proficient in reading by the end of the third grade, did not attend the summer reading program, and does not qualify for a good cause exemption from the retention requirement (Effective May 1, 2017)

Iowa Students on IEP's Rank Near Bottom

Iowa continues to rank at or near the bottom of the nation when it comes to basic reading proficiency among students on Individualized Education Programs (IEP).

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that fourth-grade students on IEPs lag behind their non-disabled peers in reading by 59 percentage points. Twenty percent of Iowa fourth grade students on IEPs performed at or above basic proficient levels in reading, compared to 79 percent of students who are not on IEPs.


Known as the achievement gap, that 59 percent difference puts Iowa at the very bottom of the ranking of states with education gaps.


“The NAEP scores concur with the results of the Iowa Assessments,” said Iowa’s Director of Special Education Barbara Guy. “These data, taken together, clearly identify that we are not yet reaching the results we would like.”


Twenty other states have a higher percent of students on IEPs who are at or above basic reading proficiency and still have gaps. Massachusetts, a leader in education reform in the country, bears that out. The state has an achievement gap of 45 percent. Yet the students as a whole perform better on the NAEP: 41 percent of students on IEPs are at basic levels of proficiency, and 86 percent of non-IEP students are proficient.


Acknowledging the flat rate of growth in reading proficiency of all Iowa students, Iowa's education system is working hard in a number of areas. Consider:

  • Implementation of the Iowa Core in schools statewide and adapting the state’s system of assessments. The Iowa Core represents the state’s standard and expectations for what students should know and be able to do in kindergarten through 12th grade.
  • Iowa’s education system is working together to put in place Response to Intervention, also known as Multi-tier Systems of Support (MTSS). It is a proven, evidence-based practice to help schools identify, and intervene with, all readers early on and to customize instruction to fit their needs. One of the first goals of MTSS in Iowa is to get all students reading proficiently by the end of third grade.
  • As per the Legislature, districts are creating teacher leadership positions, in which seasoned classroom veterans work with other educators to ensure effective delivery of coursework. The effort better utilizes the expertise of top teachers to improve classroom instruction and to raise student achievement.

“While it’s essential to be part of the broader education reform, we know that is not sufficient for students with IEPs,” Guy said.


“We cannot expect our teachers to refocus classroom instruction and methods overnight without the proper tools. So in addition to our partnerships in implementing the Iowa Core and MTSS, we will continue to identify instructional strategies and other supports that are specific to students on IEPs.


“In order for us to improve, we need to know where we stand. And with the various facets of education reform, we will get the results we all want.”


Source: Iowa Department of Education