Thursday, December 5, 2013

Power Standards and the Iowa Core: Guidance from the DE

Power Standards and the Iowa Core: Guidance from the DE

Many schools have determined that they are going to be focusing their energy on identifying and teaching “power standards” in the Iowa Core. Last spring, guidance from the Iowa Department of Education related to this topic was shared with educators in Iowa. That guidance included the following:

“Power Standards” take on a different meaning in the Iowa Core. The Iowa Core represents a much more focused set of standards intended for all students.  Defining Power Standards in order to determine standards that will not be taught and assessed
is not in compliance with Iowa Code 256.7 (26).

An important first step in prioritizing implementation of the Iowa Core is helping educators develop deep understanding of the standards. Your local AEA can provide tools and resources for English Language Arts and Math. Next, collaborative learning teams can spend time examining the skills and knowledge inherent in standard for Mathematics and English Language Arts by using the StandardsInsight tool.  Collaborative
learning teams can then take on the task of determining priorities for instruction from the standards.

*Published with permission from the Keystone AEA "Daker Report"

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Peer Observations focused on the Implementation of the Common Core

With recent legislation regarding Practitioner Collaboration and Peer Observations/Reviews, I thought I'd share a great resource on the site..."Putting the Core Into Practice".  This section contains tools that provide specific guidance as to what the Common Core State Standards in ELA / literacy and mathematics look like in the classroom. It is intended to help teachers and those who support teachers build understanding and strengthen practice.
Use these tools for: (1) Self-reflection  (2) Peer-to-peer observation and feedback and (3) Instructional coaching.  Check it out @ 
NOTE: You will have to register to use this worries...IT'S FREE!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Iowa Core Implementation Plans

In the next couple of weeks, you will most likely be hearing from the Iowa Department of Education whether your Iowa Core Implementation Plans were certified or not.  There are a few things we wanted to share with you regarding this:

1.  In the event of your plans being uncertified, there will be an email that comes directly to you from the Iowa Department of Education that outlines your next steps and how to revise your plans and recertify.
2.  As you work through your revisions, you will be able to click on the iLogs icon to get additional assistance, but ultimately, the DE will be looking for all answers to reflect components of the Self Study Review @ We made this review available in the spring.
3.  We would recommend that these revisions be done in a timely manner.  Having said that, if your district is up for a DE Site visit, all plans housed on the C-Plan portal need to be properly certified in order to be compliant for the site visit.    
4. As always, we're here to help.  Please don't hesitate to give your AEA Iowa Core Lead a call to assist.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Achieve the Core

"This website is full of free content designed to help educators understand and implement the Common Core State Standards. It includes practical tools designed to help students and teachers see their hard work deliver results. was created in the spirit of collaboration. Please steal these tools and share them with others."

Branstad Signs Executive Order Addressing Common Core Concerns

Monday, October 14, 2013

Iowa Department of Education releases the Iowa Core Essential Elements for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities

It is with great pleasure to announce the Department will released the Iowa Core Essential Elements for students with significant cognitive disabilities on October 9, 2013.

The Iowa Core Essential Elements are not a redefinition of the Iowa Core standards, but rather specific statements of the knowledge and skills linked to grade-level Iowa Core English Language Arts and Math standards and are intended to describe challenging expectations for students with significant cognitive disabilities.
Through instruction of the Iowa Core Essential Elements and a personalized learning approach for adult life outcomes, the State of Iowa’s students with significant disabilities will increase their development of academic skills and life goals to reach their maximum potential.
The Iowa Core Essential Elements and other supporting media will be located within the Department of Education’s Iowa Core webpage:
If you would like additional information, contact or 515-281-3500.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

MORE Great Resources to Support your Iowa Core Standards Implementation

From the September 11, 2013 ICCS Newsletter

GO to the iTunes University!  CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers) launched an iTunes University page that includes courses designed to help states and districts implement the Common Core.  iTunes U is a section of the iTunes Store where users can download free educational course content from the universities, non-profit education institutions, state education agencies, and K-12 organizations.  CCSSO will continue to provide content in an effort to ensure that information, instructional materials, and resources in support of the Common Core State Standards are available and easily accessible.  Check it out @

Iowa Core Myths vs. Facts

Myth vs. Fact
A note from the AEA Communications Directors

·      Myth: The federal government developed the Common Core State Standards.
-       FACT: The federal government did not play a role in developing the Common Core. For years, states independently developed their own standards. Over time, state leaders recognized that many students were graduating from high school unprepared for the demands of college and careers.

In 2007, state education leaders began discussing the idea of working together to develop a set of rigorous academic expectations for English/language arts and math to ensure all students finish high school prepared for the next step. In 2009, governors and state education chiefs from 48 states engaged in a bipartisan collaboration toward this goal. The states worked with teachers, parents, content experts and others to develop and release the Common Core. Forty-five states, the District of Columbia and four territories have adopted the Common Core State Standards.

·      Myth:  The Iowa State Board of Education did not have the authority to adopt the Common Core as part of the Iowa Core.
-       FACT: Iowa, through authority vested in the State Board of Education by the Iowa Legislature, adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010 and blended them with our state standards. State board authority is provided by Iowa Code Chapter 256.7(26).

·      Myth: Iowa is receiving federal funding to implement the Common Core.
-       FACT: Iowa receives no federal money to implement the Common Core as part of the Iowa Core. The Iowa Department of Education has a $2 million state appropriation for fiscal year 2014 to support the work of Iowa Core implementation.

·      Myth:  Iowa has adopted a federal curriculum.
-       FACT: The Common Core State Standards set common, rigorous expectations for what students should know and be able to do, but leave decisions about teaching and lesson plans up to local schools and teachers.

·      Myth: Implementing the standards requires states to collect and share vast amounts of personally identifiable student information.
-       FACT: Implementing the standards does not require data collection. The Iowa Department of Education collects student data and information to learn how schools in Iowa are changing, to follow the academic progress of students from preschool to high school, and to guide efforts to improve our education system. Data help teachers and parents gauge whether students are on track from year to year and whether they graduate ready for success in college and careers. This information is used to detect and report shifts in student populations and demographics and student achievement results, such as high school graduation rates, attendance rates, and state assessment scores. Under No Child Left Behind and other federal laws, data, such as test scores, are provided to the federal government. Students are never identified by name.

·      Myth: The Common Core prevents teachers from teaching literature.
-       FACT: The standards do not limit reading to non-fiction, but strike a balance between literature and non-fiction so students build knowledge and broaden their perspectives.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Iowa Core Talking Points

About the Iowa Core...A note from the AEA Communications Directors
One foundational component to a great school system is a clear set of expectations, or standards, that the education system helps all students reach. In Iowa, that effort is known as the Iowa Core. 
The Iowa Core represents our statewide academic standards, which describe what students should know and be able to do in math, science, English language arts and social studies. The Iowa Core also addresses 21st century skills in areas such as financial and technology literacy. The Iowa Core represents a set of standards that have been vetted and customized by Iowans and for Iowa.
Iowa was the last state in the nation to adopt statewide standards in 2008. State legislators led this shift away from locally determined standards, which had caused inconsistent expectations in schools across the state. Iowa educators identified and wrote the essential concepts and skills that make up the Iowa Core.
As the state worked to develop and implement the Iowa Core, a consortium of states across the nation formed to develop common standards for English language arts and math. These are called the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards build on the best academic standards states have developed and the academic standards of top-performing school systems around the globe. The Common Core grew out of a desire to make sure teachers and parents share high academic expectations for children so they can succeed. Most states have voluntarily adopted the Common Core.
In Iowa, the State Board of Education in 2010 voted to blend the Iowa Core with the Common Core State Standards. This was an easy decision since the Iowa Core was already similar to the Common Core but embodied some higher academic standards. The goal of the Iowa Core is to make sure Iowa students meet high state academic standards so they’re ready for college or career training after high school. We owe it to our students to give them a world-class education.
The Iowa Core is not perfect. We want to continually improve the standards and look to Iowa education stakeholders to help us make the Iowa Core the right fit for Iowa.
State-led Effort, Local Decisions
·      The Common Core State Standards were developed by a coalition of states, not by the federal government.  The bipartisan effort led by state education chiefs and governors grew out of concern that many high school graduates were unprepared for the demands of college and career training in a globally competitive economy.
·      The standards set rigorous expectations, but leave decisions about teaching and lessons to schools and teachers. The standards do not define the curriculum educators teach.
Internationally Benchmarked
·      The Common Core State Standards incorporate the best of state standards in the United States and are internationally benchmarked to the world’s top-performing nations.
Real-World Ready
·      The Common Core State Standards emphasize complex, real-world skills rather than basic skills. This is critical in a knowledge-driven economy that demands problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking both in careers and in personal decisions.
Clear and Consistent
·      The standards serve as a roadmap of academic expectations that provide students, parents, and teachers with a clear, common understanding of what should be learned at every grade level. This allows them to work together toward shared goals.

Key Features

English/Language Arts
·      Build knowledge through content-rich nonfiction and informational texts plus literature.
·      Reading and writing grounded in evidence from the text.
·      Regular practice with complex text and its academic vocabulary.

English Language Arts – Reading: Literature – Grade 8
-       Craft and Structure
·      Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
·      Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.
·      Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.
·      Focus: 2-3 topics focused on deeply in each grade.
·      Coherence: Concepts logically connected from one grade to the next and linked to other major topics within the grade.
·      Rigor: Application of knowledge to real-world situations, and deep understanding of mathematical concepts.

Mathematics – Grade 3 – Measurement & Data
-       Solve Problems Involving Measurement and Estimation of Intervals of Time, Liquid Volumes, and Masses of Objects.
·      Tell and write time to the nearest minute and measure time intervals in minutes. Solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of time intervals in minutes, e.g., by representing the problem on a number line diagram.
·      Measure and estimate liquid volumes and masses of objects using standard units of grams (g), kilograms (kg), and liters (I).[1]  Add, subtract, multiply, or divide to solve one-step word problems involving masses or volumes that are given in the same units, e.g., by using drawings (such as a beaker with a measurement scale) to represent the problem.[2]


[1] Excludes compound units such as cm3 and finding the geometric volume of a container.
[2] Excludes multiplicative comparison problems (problems involving notions of “times as much,” see Glossary, Table 2).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Iowa Core C-Plan Assistance

In the midst of trying to complete the C-Plan before the Sept. 15 deadline, we have been asked by the Iowa DoE to forward the following information.  I have also included information directly from the attached Iowa Core Self-Study & Implementation Plan Handbook to help you answer these questions more easily.  Most importantly, please don't hesitate to give your AEA Iowa Core Lead a call if we can be of more assistance. 

We’ve had a number of inquiries about C-Plan Elements 1371. What are the district’s measurable, long-range goals to address improvements in social studies? And 1372. What are the district’s measurable, long-range goals to address improvements in 21st Century Skills?. So we’re revised pp. 20-27 to the Self-Study Implementation Plan Handbook Self Study & Implementation Plan Handbookto assist districts in writing these goals.  Please share this document with those in your local schools who you believe will be required to address these two elements. Their deadline for completing the questions in the C-Plan is September 15 so we encourage you to do this at your earliest possible convenience.

Information from the Self Study Implementation Plan Handbook that might help:

Question:  What are the district's measurable, long-range goals to address improvements in social studies?

Guidance/Things to consider:  What data are you currently reviewing to meet your Social Studies goals?  Will your current goals help focus your improvement efforts in the area of social studies? Will these goals help the district know if improvement in social studies is being made? What training or support will staff need to reach these goals?

Question:  What are the district's measurable, long-range goals to address improvements in 21st Century Skills?
Guidance/Things to consider:  What data are you currently reviewing to meet your 21st Century Skills goals?  How are students demonstrating competence in civic literacy, financial literacy, health literacy, technology literacy, or employability skills?  Will your current goals help focus your improvement efforts in the area of 21st Century Skills? Will these goals help the district know if improvement in 21st Century Skills is being made? What training or support will staff need to reach these goals?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

StandardsInsight webcast

StandardsInsight was developed to give educators a tool for in-depth investigation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and serves as a vehicle to examine the standards in a variety of ways. This tool has “unpacked “or dissected the Common Core Standards into several categories. The content in StandardsInsight has been adjusted to reflect Iowa Core Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. 

Click on the following link to access and webcast to assist you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Smarter Balanced Releases Online Practice Tests Examples

OLYMPIA, Wash. - May 29, 2013 - Teachers, parents, and students across the country can now access online practice tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium <> (Smarter Balanced) today released sets of example test questions for grades 3-8 and 11 in both English language arts/literacy and mathematics. The Practice Tests will help schools prepare for the implementation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System in the 2014-15 school year.

"The release of online Practice Tests reflects the tremendous progress of the state-led effort to develop next-generation assessments," said Joe Willhoft, Ph.D., executive director of Smarter Balanced. "Available nearly two years before the first administration of the summative assessment, these examples offer schools and districts another resource for professional development and outreach."

The Practice Tests provide a preview of the types of questions that will be featured in the summative assessment beginning in 2014-15, including selected-response items, constructed-response items, technology-enhanced items, and performance tasks-extended activities that challenge students to apply their knowledge and skills to respond to real-world problems. The Practice Tests are freely available on the Smarter Balanced website:

"The Practice Tests allow teachers and students to experience the higher level of rigor associated with Common Core tests and gain familiarity with the online test delivery system," said Deborah Sigman, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction for the California Department of Education and Smarter Balanced Executive Committee Co-Chair. "Member states are making these example test questions available as part of our commitment to a balanced assessment system that provides high-quality information to improve teaching and learning."

The Practice Tests do not include all the features of the operational assessments. For example, students and teachers will not receive reports or scores from the Practice Tests. Although Smarter Balanced assessments will be computer adaptive, the Practice Tests follow a fixed-form model. By fall 2013, Smarter Balanced will make enhancements to the Practice Tests, including the addition of performance tasks in mathematics, new accommodations for students with disabilities, and scoring rubrics.

The release of the Practice Tests follows the Smarter Balanced Pilot Test, the first large-scale tryout of items and performance tasks. The Pilot Test allowed the Consortium to gather information about the performance of assessment items and the test delivery system under real-world conditions. More than 5,000 schools in 21 Smarter Balanced Governing States were recruited to participate in the Pilot Test from February 20 - May 24, 2013. Development of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System will continue after the release of the Practice Tests and through summer 2014 in collaboration with member states and educators.

Smarter Balanced is committed to a transparent process for developing next-generation assessments. In October 2012, Smarter Balanced released a set of sample assessment items and performance tasks. The Consortium has also published: content specifications that translate the standards into assessment claims and targets; item and task specifications that specify how individual questions are to be written; and the preliminary test blueprints that describe the content of the test and how it will be assessed. These materials are available online at:

About Smarter Balanced
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium brings together states to create a common, innovative assessment system for mathematics and English language arts/literacy that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards and helps prepare students for college and careers. The Consortium involves educators, researchers, policymakers, and community groups in a transparent and consensus-driven process to help all students thrive in a knowledge-driven global economy. The Consortium's projects are funded through a four-year, $175 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, comprising 99 percent of activity resources, with the remaining support provided through generous contributions of charitable foundations. Membership is open to any interested U.S. state. For more information, please visit<>.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Iowa Core C-Plan Data Elements

Click on the following link to access the Iowa Core C-Plan Data Elements.  This document will be helpful to districts and schools as they work at incorporating current Iowa Core Implementation Plans into the C-Plan.  NOTE:  the deadline for this data entry is September 15.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Engaging Parents with the Iowa Core

Here is a great site with documents teaching parents about the Common Core.  Check it out: 
I particularly like the 'Parents Backpack to the Common Core (PDF)'

Monday, April 15, 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More Depth of Knowledge Learning

The following video gives a description of Webb's Depth of Knowledge, along with a Social Studies example.

Cognitive Complexity - What is it and how does it relate to the Iowa Core?

The Iowa Core Standards for Literacy and Mathematics are intended to play a central role in defining what teachers teach. That is, teachers are to align their instruction to the Standards. The Standards not only define the topical, procedural, and conceptual knowledge students are to learn, they also define the type of cognitive processes in which students are to engage. This is known as cognitive demand or cognitive complexity. The practical implication of cognitive complexity is that the Standards require teachers to provide students with instructional experiences that not only address the topical and conceptual knowledge of the standards, but the type of thinking called for by the standards as well.

Learn more about cognitive complexity by accessing information at the following url:

Let's Chat Core

In this series, Sarah Brown Wessling explains the Common Core State Standards and offers insights on how to implement the Core in classrooms across America.

How Rigorous is the Iowa Core?

Academic Rigor using Webb's Depth of Knowledge
Since 2005, Iowa has been on a multi-year journey to reinvigorate our education system. One of the foundational elements of this effort has been the Iowa Core (formerly the Iowa Model Core Curriculum and Iowa Core Curriculum). The work of the Iowa Core over this time can be divided into three phases: (1) initial adoption and implementation, (2) adoption of the Common Core State Standards in Literacy and Mathematics, and (3) Iowa Core expansion. As the development of the Iowa Core has evolved over time, so too has the nature of work schools and districts should do with the Iowa Core. This report describes work related to the cognitive complexity called for by the Iowa Core Literacy and Mathematics standards. Furthermore, this report explores the implications and applications of the Iowa Core standards’ cognitive complexity for the Iowa Department of Education’s (i.e., the Department) efforts to promote and support quality curriculum alignment work as one means of facilitating Iowa Core implementation in Iowa classrooms. 

Access the full set of resources using the following link:

Smarter Balanced Releases Sample Test Items

Smarter Balanced sample items illustrate the rigor and complexity of the English language arts/literacy and mathematics items and performance tasks students will encounter on the Consortium’s next-generation assessments. Take a look by accessing the following link: