Spotlight on Advanced Learners, TLC, and Social Studies

lead tech learn

January 11, 2018   Vol. 4

Elementary Reading classroom

Active Learning and High Rigor

Iowa district trying new curriculum aligned to Iowa math, ELA standards

Open Up Resources, a nonprofit that develops free, expert-authored, standards-aligned core curricula, has debuted its first Open Education Resource (OER) curriculum, with three more in development for the 2018–19 school year.

 All of Open Up Resources’ curricula are

  • Closely aligned to Iowa Core English/Language Arts and Mathematics standards.
  • Designed with embedded supports for English language learners and students with disabilities.
  • Refined in large-scale district pilots before being released as OER.

Their first math curriculum, Illustrative Mathematics 6–8 Math, was authored by standards author Bill McCallum and his team at Illustrative Mathematics.

 Open Up Resources also has three ELA curricula available for adoption in 2018–19:  

 Fort Dodge Community School District has implemented some of the modules during first semester of this school year. According to Stacey Cole, director of Educational Services, the district is taking a slow, thoughtful path to full adoption of the EL Education K-5 Language Arts and Illustrative Mathematics 6-8 Math.

“The modules are well designed and incorporate strategies for meeting students’ social-emotional needs as well. We also like the scaffolded support for English Language Learners and special education students, she said. 

Fort Dodge CSD required all K -5 teachers to implement Module 1 of the Language Arts curriculum. “We did a lot of training before we started,” she said. The training included a professional learning day with curriculum leaders and then a day with each of the grade spans teachers, K-2 and 3-5.

She also has two middle school math teachers who are “toe dipping” in the Illustrative Mathematics modules. “They are excited about the curriculum and think we need to move ahead with it,” Cole said.

She would advise other districts to implement the modules, but to bring in trainers for professional learning and to purchase materials, including printed materials for each teacher.

“The modules emphasize active learning and a high level of rigor, which were areas that we needed to address. But making the adjustment was difficult for some of our teachers. Without the support (of training and materials), the modules could easily be overwhelming,” she said.

For more information, contact Destiny Eldridge for literacy at (515) 822-2554 or and April Pforts for mathematics at (515) 314-6243 or

Young girl standing in front of flag on bulletin board

New Social Studies Standards

Professional learning for administrators challenges sterotypes

Sessions designed to introduce Iowa’s instructional leaders to the new K-12 social studies standards have been offered in most of the AEAs during the past few months. These half-day professional learning sessions have focused on helping school leaders contextualize the new standards to their school and their students.

“It gets them thinking about the vision for social studies in their vision and mission statements. We ask them to dig into the purpose for social studies and their own experience in learning social studies. We challenge their stereotypes of social studies. It’s not reading textbooks, answering questions at the end of the chapter, or filling out worksheets,” said Stefanie Wager, Department social studies lead.

In the training, school leaders discover that social studies is not about answers, but questions, Wager said. The training also helps them understand good instructional practice in social studies, she said.

Most AEAs have hosted their session, but there’s still time to attend one in Keystone AEA in March. Leaders who missed the sessions are encouraged to attend the two-day professional development for teachers. Dates and registration information for those sessions can be found at

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

Students with Significant Disabilities

Giving all students access to new social studies standards

 A team of five special educators and five general educators are collaborating to give students with significant cognitive disabilities access to the core learning in the new social studies standards. The team is examining the standards and determining which will be rewritten with “less depth, breadth, and complexity,” according to Jennifer Denne, a consultant for students with significant disabilities. These will become the Iowa Core Social Studies Essential Elements for students with significant disabilities.


The Essential Elements are specific statements of the content and skills students with significant cognitive disabilities are expected to know and be able to do. They are intended to provide links between the general education standards and grade specific expectations. Essential elements have already been written for English/language arts, mathematics and science.


The purpose, according to Denne, is to give students with significant disabilities access to the core curriculum based upon the Iowa Academic Standards. “There has been a huge switch in what and how teachers teach. Previous to the development of essential elements, functional skills or life skills predominated the curriculum. Now we’re seeing more of an emphasis on academic content and skills,” she said.

“The most exciting time, for me,” Denne said, “is when a teacher says, ‘I didn’t know my kids were able to do that.’”

For more information, contact Jennifer Denne at (515) 623-5332 or 

Do you read the Iowa Core blog?

Voice from the Field is a blog written by invited educators and Department consultants to help inform readers about issues related to the Iowa Core.

This month’s blog is authored by social studies consultant Stefanie Wager and focuses on the four instructional shifts needed to implement the new social studies standards with fidelity.


Go to Wager's blog and subscribe to become a regular reader.