The Iowa Core Curriculum

Iowa Core Curriculum

In 2008 the Iowa Legislature approved steps that require all accredited public schools to begin implementation of the Iowa Core Curriculum by 2012. In response, the Cedar Falls School District began initial implementation efforts with the creation of a K-12 leadership committee composed of teachers, administrators, parents, and the school board. Over the past 12 months, work has intensified, resulting in a comprehensive implementation plan that has since been approved by both our school board and the Iowa Department of Education. One expectation of this plan is to continuously inform our community regarding the scope of the Iowa Core, the expected outcomes of its implementation, and the actual impact it is having on teaching and learning within the district. Toward this end, we are pleased to share this first district-wide communication.

Q. What is the Iowa Core Curriculum?

A. The Iowa Core Curriculum is a statewide effort to bring increased consistency to the knowledge and skills all high school graduates possess. In the words of Department of Education leaders, the vision for the Iowa Core is to “…ensure the success of each and every student by providing a world-class curriculum. The Iowa Core is designed to improve achievement of all students, preparing them for the world of work and lifelong learning. It identifies the essential content and instruction of critical content areas that all students must experience.”

However, the Iowa Core is much more than a revised set of curriculum content standards. The Iowa Core is also a school reform process that requires each district to carefully examine its instructional practices and the level of student learning those practices produce. Important questions within this ongoing process include: Are we guaranteeing that all students have access to the Iowa Core content? How must we restructure our school day and year to both maximize student learning and improve opportunities teachers have to improve instruction? How do we deliver daily lessons that stretch student learning beyond the basics? What types of evidence do we need to determine if each part of our educational system is improving? Thus, the Iowa Core is equal measures of two critical elements: a 21st Century curriculum delivered within a school system continually striving to produce high levels of learning for all students.

Q. Why is it important to implement the Iowa Core Curriculum at this time?

A. It is increasingly clear high school graduates face a world very different from that of past generations. Advances in technology have changed both work and the workplace. Recent Cedar Falls graduates are already competing in a global marketplace. We certainly want our sons and daughters to leave school with much more than a set of basic reading and math skills. They must be fully equipped to think critically, apply knowledge to emerging problems, create new solutions, and work effectively within a diverse setting. Implementing the Iowa Core at this time will help a very good school district become an even better place for students. Recent district testing data indicates student achievement has reached a plateau in the areas of reading, math and science and has, for some groups of students, begun to decline. (In a similar fashion, Iowa’s standing among other states has also declined.) One explanation is that we have reached the limits of an educational system designed for a time long since past. Implementing the Iowa Core will afford Cedar Falls an excellent opportunity to carefully examine all aspects of its educational system.

A desired result? Again, quoting Iowa Department of Education leaders, “…to accelerate the desired shift from a culture of teaching to a culture of learning. In simple terms this means the effectiveness of a lesson will be determined by how well students learn rather than by how well it was delivered.

Q. What types of changes within Cedar Falls might I expect to see during the next year or two?

A. Fully implementing the Iowa Core will require significant changes to the way we educate students. Therefore, you shouldn’t continue to see business as usual. Many of the initial changes will occur inside the school walls and be less apparent to parents.

These include:

  • Teachers and administrators working together to ensure a consistent curriculum for all students, regardless of what elementary or junior high school they attend.
  • Providing all teachers with regularly scheduled time to work together with other educators who have common teaching responsibilities. The goal of this collaboration is to improve teaching and learning.
  • Other changes will become more apparent to students and parents. Examples include:
    • Student assignments featuring less rote learning (i.e. memorization) and more complex thinking (i.e. application, problem solving, creating new work).
    • All students taking courses that include required Iowa Core content such as algebra, geometry, physics, chemistry, and new “21st Century Skills” such as financial and employability skills.

Q. How will these changes help my child?

A. Your daughter/son will become much better prepared for our rapidly changing world. They will be challenged to do more than memorize basic information and complete assignments sometimes out of sync with the world beyond school. They will continue to have a highly trained teacher who regularly works with others to help ensure all students are learning at high levels.

Q. How can I stay informed about Cedar Falls’ efforts to implement the Iowa Core?

A. Our goal is to provide all parents and community patrons with ongoing information about our work. In addition, we suggest you stay engaged by:

  • Utilizing a new link on the District’s website that contains Iowa Core-related information
  • Asking questions at upcoming parent meetings
  • Visiting with child’s teacher(s)
  • Reading local and state news reports—much is being written about the Iowa Core
  • Volunteering to help! There are several school/community committees working on the Iowa Core. Each needs increased parent/patron involvement. We are actively seeking your input and expertise.
  • Contact us. Call your child’s principal and/or the District’s administration office (553-3000).