Five things Iowa educators need to know

Lead Teach Learn Masthead

September 2017, Vol. 1

New Social Studies Standards

Social studies is about questions, not answers

Iowa is in Year 1 of a three-year implementation plan for its new social studies standards. The new standards require educators to teach more effectively, according to Stefanie Wager, social studies consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. “It’s about teachers moving their practice to an inquiry-oriented, student-center classroom.” Teachers implementing the new standards will organize their instruction around a compelling question like ‘Was the American Revolution really revolutionary?’ she said. 

Unlike previous standards, the new standards move away from grade spans to grade-specific K-8 standards and content-specific high school standards. Implementation is being supported by AEA-led professional development. Year 1 will introduce the four shifts in instruction that the new standards require:

  • Craft questions that spark and sustain an inquiry
  • Integrate skills and content purposefully
  • Provide opportunities for communicating conclusions and taking informed action
  • Engage in rigorous, student-centered learning 

In addition to the professional learning, schools and districts are being asked to form a district plan to ensure that all teachers of social studies, including elementary teachers, receive the appropriate professional learning and that opportunities for collaboration for sharing model lessons or units are available. 

For more information, contact Stefanie Wager at or (515) 725-7842.

Implementing the Science Standards

It’s not just learning about science, it’s learning while doing science

Up for consideration

Children in a science classroom

Implementing Iowa’s science standards is not just aligning instruction to the standards, according to Kris Kilibarda, science consultant at the Department of Education. “We recognize that when you’re really going to implement Iowa’s science standards,” she said, “you’ve got to change how students learn. That calls for changing how learning environments and experiences are structured.”

What makes these standards different is that they include three dimensions of learning

  • Practices – behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate and build models and theories
  • Crosscutting Concepts – concepts that apply across all domains of science
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas – the most important aspects of science 

Teachers are also going to have to consider the multiple ways students provide evidence of their learning. “None of this is easy and it will take time to effectively implement, Kilibarda said. “That’s why our implementation plan extends over four years.”  This year is the third year; it calls for teachers to continue their work in refining units and lessons based on the new standards, to work in vertical and horizontal teams to review the sequencing of grade-band progressions of the science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts, and to implement multiple methods to gather and use evidence of student learning. To support this in-district work, teachers are encouraged to attend the AEA-led professional learning modules. 

For more information, contact Kris Kilibarda at or 515-281-3966

Standards review team sends fine arts standards to the board

Fine Arts standards will be one of the topics discussed during the November 14 State Board of Education Meeting. A standards adoption team consisting of 22 Fine Arts stakeholders met four times earlier this year to review multiple sets of standards and to learn from other states about their implementation of fine arts standards. The team reviewed standards from multiple states and met virtually with consultants from Kansas, Colorado, and New Hampshire to review their standards. The group also spent time reviewing the National Core Arts Standards. The team will present their findings to the State Board of Education and offer a recommendation for a set of standards to be considered as “recommended” for Iowa Fine Arts educators.

For more information, contact Angela Matsuoka at or 515-281-3933.

Review of effective teacher leader roles

Framework identifies skills for improving student learning

Teacher Leadership and Compensation logo

The philosophy of the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) System is multi-pronged, but boils down to this: improving student learning requires improving the instruction they receive each day. There is no better way to do this than to empower our best teachers to lead the effort.

The TLC System rewards effective teachers with leadership opportunities and higher pay, attracts promising new teachers with competitive starting salaries and more support, and fosters greater collaboration for all teachers to learn from each other.

Through the system, teacher leaders take on extra responsibilities, including helping colleagues analyze data and fine tune instructional strategies, as well as coaching and co-teaching.  

One of the first tools that the TLC Statewide Support Team developed was the TLC System – Framework for Learning Supports.  Now in the fourth year of the program, this tool can be helpful in guiding the implementation of the program within districts. The framework identifies skill sets teacher leaders need to be effective in a variety of roles including adult learning, collaborative culture, communication, content/pedagogy/assessment, systems thinking, data, and organizational leadership. 

 A different skill set will be reviewed each month in Lead Teach Learn.

For more information, contact Lora Rasey at or 515-281-6719.

Literacy and Mathematics

Core Advocate Network is getting underway

The Bureau of Standards and Curriculum is launching a new Iowa Core Advocate Network this fall. Through monthly webinars, members will gain a deeper understanding of the Shifts required by the Iowa Core and the best standards-aligned resources, tools and instructional practices in English language arts and mathematics. This network will include teachers, teacher leaders, instructional coaches, AEA consultants, and others interested in leading their local community in sharing practices aligned with the Shifts. The Network will also support the Department in identifying leaders in instructional advocacy. If you are interested in joining, register by completing the Iowa Core Advocate Sign-Up Form: 

For more information, contact Destiny Eldridge at or (515) 281-6235 or April Pforts at or 515-314-6243.