Gov. Terry Branstad signed an executive order Thursday, which stated local Iowa school districts will maintain control of their own curriculum through Iowa Core.
Iowa Core is a standards-based curriculum created after the nation passed the Common Core educational initiative, which standardized state education.
“It’s a set of standards so that, the thinking is, across the country, everyone will have rigorous curriculum in their schools,” said Steve McDermott, Creston School District superintendent.
The order states “the state of Iowa, not the federal government or any other organization, shall determine the content of Iowa’s state academic standards, which are known as the Iowa Core.”
The order also states those in Iowa will choose the assessments used to measure student achievement in Iowa Core, and collection of data by school districts and the Iowa Department of Education will be consistent with state and federal laws intended to protect privacy, so that only data from students as a whole will be provided to the federal government.
“I see that the governor is doing what he can to make sure folks understand that Iowa as a state is making decisions for our local Iowa students,” said McDermott, “and that we’re not completely controlled by the federal goverment.”
McDermott said he doesn’t believe there are strong disagreements in standardizing education, but that it comes back to student assessment of the standards.
“There are challenges, always, with alignment and making sure students are learning the appropriate lessons, and that our curriculum is rigorous enough for students,” McDermott said. “We want students pushed to their full potential. But again, so much of this is mandated to us, we just do what we can to make sure we are in compliance.”
Common Core mandates students in each grade level reach a certain proficiency in each core subject. 80 to 85 percent of the Common Core curriculum is mandated, and 15 to 20 percent is focused on local culture.
According to the Iowa Department of Education website, “all school districts and accredited nonpublic schools are required to fully implement the Iowa Core in grades 9-12 by July 1, 2012, and grades K-8 by the 2014-15 school year.”
Previous to the Iowa Core, curricula across the state was district-based, and Creston School District had something similar in place.
“Creston had been ahead of the game because we had a concept, CSIP,” said Edanne Qualseth, Creston High School English teacher.
CSIP, comprehensive school improvement planning, is a program set up to improve learning by planning how students will achieve standards. It required teachers to rewrite curriculum every few years to keep it updated and efficient. Creston had benchmark assessments to meet, so transition wasn’t difficult for many teachers.
“We had to go through updates to meet the curriculum,” Qualseth said. “It wasn’t a really big shift in the English department. ... As I build lessons, I refer back to it so it connects, and so we cover everything.”
The standards outline curriculum, so teachers can make sure students all get the same basic skills and concepts in each subject.
Common Core was brought about as a way to standardize state curricula. The initiative went into effect in Iowa in 2010, and will be implemented fully by the 2014-15 school year.
Common Core standards include basic core teachings in English, math, science and social studies, but it also includes things based on today’s culture. Twenty-first-century skills, which, according to the Iowa Department of Education’s website, are critical thinking, complex communication, creativity, collaboration, flexibility and adaptability, and productivity and accountability.
Iowa legislators translated the Common Core to fit the state’s teachings. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of the Common Core teachings were decided by state legislators to fit local curriculum. Iowa’s curriculum, which included the local-based teachings, became known as Iowa Core.
Math and English standards were put in place in 2010, and science and social studies standards are to be effective by the 2014-15 school year.