Computer Science Standards sent to State Board

lead tech learn

June 14, 2019   Vol. 7

young student artist

Supporting Fine Arts educators

Fine arts modules support standards implementation

Five professional development modules supporting the implementation of Iowa’s new fine arts standards are under development, according to Angela Matsuoka, fine arts consultant at the Department of Education. Matsuoka expects that the modules will be ready for educators’ use by the end of summer. 

“Something educators will be really excited about in these modules is the examples of how standards are used in fellow-Iowa fine arts educators’ classrooms. We’ll be including assessments, lesson plans, and unit plans from other teachers. These applications should help educators with their practice and implementation of the standards,” Matsuoka said.

The modules include information of standards design and history, the structure of the standards, a discipline specific look at the standards, unit design using the standards, and assessment. The standards, which were adopted in 2017, address these disciplines: dance, general music, instrumental music, media arts, theatre, visual art, and vocal music.

Members of the Statewide Fine Arts Leadership Team are working on the modules. The team includes teachers, AEA consultants, and university and college faculty. Members were chosen to have expertise in each of the disciplines included in the standards.   

The modules will be self-paced learning courses accessible through AEA Learning Online.  Administrators, TLC leaders, or teachers who complete all five modules will be eligible for one license renewal credit.

For more information, contact Angela Matsuoka at or (515) 782-7296.  

Child playing

Changing lives

After-school programming improves at-risk children’s achievement, behavior, attendance

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21 CCLC) programs in Iowa are contributing to the lives of at-risk children by helping them improve attendance and behavior, and make gains in reading and mathematics.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Annual Performance Report shows that in Iowa 66 percent of the students who participate in the program have improved in reading and 75 percent have improved in mathematics. Afterschool attendance in Iowa is also on the rise, increasing from 42 percent to 68 percent in 2017.

The number of students served in afterschool programs funded by the 21 CCLC program has increased, as has funding. In 2011, Iowa’s grant was $4,000,000 and 6,203 children were served in 51 sites statewide. In 2017, 14,679 children were served in 103 sites and Iowa’s funding had grown to $6,825,000. 

According to Vic Jaras, program consultant at the Department, there’s a correlations between afterschool programs and improved student behavior. “Without exception, in every school that I visit and talk with the principal, he or she reports that when an afterschool program starts in their building, attendance goes up and referrals to the office for misbehavior go down dramatically.” Data from the Sioux City and the Council Bluffs Police Departments indicates that both cities have experienced dramatic reductions in juvenile arrests between the hours of 2 and 5 p.m., which may at least in part be due to the successful implementation of 21st CCLC programs, according to Jaras.  

The Sioux City police report the percentage of juvenile arrests between the hours of 2 and 5 p.m. have consistently declined during the three years of grant implementation: down 24 percent in the first year, down 33 percent in the second, and down 37 percent the third. 

 The Council Bluffs Police Department reported a 50 percent reduction in the number of juvenile arrests between the hours of 2 and 5 p.m. – from 262 arrests in 2014 to 128 arrests in 2017.

One of the reasons why we’ve had such success in Iowa, Jaras notes, is that Iowa has a sense of community that other states don’t have. “Iowans really value their schools and communities. A requirement of this program is schools and communities working together. 21 CCLC programs tap into this resource, requiring that the after-school program seek the support of business and community resources.

For more information, contact Vic Jaras, 21st Century Community Learning Centers consultant, at or (515) 402-2729. 

Students in a computer lab

Recommended standards for K-12

Computer Science standards to go to the State Board

A statewide standards review team has met monthly from January to May and is sending its recommendation for K-12 computer science standards to the State Board on Friday, June 15.

The team reviewed sets of computer science standards from other states and national organizations and selected the K-12 Computer Science Standards from the Computer Science Teacher Association (CSTA) as the set they would recommend. In making their selection, the team reviewed feedback from an online public survey and two public forums and found strong support among educators at all grade levels, as well as parents and other community members to adopt the CSTA standards. The team also recommended the creation of a guidance document to assist educators in implementing the standards.

The computer science standards are recommended standards. This means that schools and districts have the option to implement them for students. But those who served on the review team see computer science education as essential.

“Iowa students deserve opportunities to learn and experience computer science, which has become a basic skill,” said Ann Wiley, instructional technology coordinator for the Johnston Community School District and a member of the computer science standards review team. “We must raise expectations for computer science knowledge and skills in Iowa schools so that students are prepared for the demands of postsecondary education and the workforce.”

To support the implementation of the recommended standards legislature allocated $500,000 for a computer science professional development incentive fund. The intent of this fund is to increase the number of computer science teachers. The districts that receive the computer science incentive funds will be able to use it to train teachers to teach computer science, which includes implementing the computer science standards, and tuition reimbursement for educators seeking endorsements and certifications in computer science. The Department is accepting applications for this fund mid-June. Look for it on

For more information, contact Erika Cook, Standards and Curriculum bureau chief, at or (515) 240-3103.

Child playing with Push Toy

Early Learning Standards revised

Depth and breadth of standards broadened, increased emphasis on math and science

Iowa’s Early Learning Standards have been revised to reflect current research and alignment to the Iowa Academic Standards.

Through the efforts of Early Childhood Iowa, a collaboration among the Department of Education, Department of Human Services, and other entities, the standards have been reshaped “to recognize that not everyone is going to come at this subject as a teacher or administrator,” according to Kimberly Villotti, administrative consultant with the Bureau of Standards and Curriculum at the Iowa Department of Education. “Moving away from educational jargon means the vocabulary is more relevant to a parent or caregiver who is always observing what a child can and cannot do and bouncing it against what typical development would look like,” she said.

Based on both research and theory in child development and early education, Iowa’s Early Learning Standards are intended as a resource to help support and enhance children’s learning and development, and a tool to share information among families, caregivers, and child care professionals. The goal is to help every child, beginning at birth, be healthy and successful (Early Childhood Iowa’s Vision).

“In early childhood we talk about the whole child,” Villotti said. “We created alignments of English language arts and mathematics, and now we have upped the ante by adding social studies, science, and fine arts. It’s not a checklist for entry to school or as a foundation of expectation, but rather a tool to help teachers and caregivers recognize what young kids focus on. It’s a symbiotic, reciprocal relationship. Both teachers and care givers have skin in the game with these kiddos. The document helps validate and affirm to care givers that they are doing instruction, and providing opportunities in fine motor, in language, in science, in social emotional supports. It’s a common understanding and language so we can best support kids.”

Initially, math and science standards were grouped together. That has changed because of new knowledge about the value of inquiry and importance of engineering concepts gained through science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. A stronger, more intentional emphasis on opportunities for both math and science experiential exploration is achieved by having math and science broken out and acknowledged separately.

“People tend to shy away from mathematics in early childhood contexts,” Villotti said. “Mathematics can be daunting to most people. We know that many people hear the word mathematics and get quite anxious. We took math concepts that are abstract, theoretical, and conceptual and put them as concretes.

 “We decided what mathematical practices look like for an infant or toddler, then described what an adult can do in a very simplistic way with a very young child to reinforce the math concepts. I can read about, mimic, and replicate the action steps with young kids and know that’s my contribution. I can help kids approach a mathematical situation and not feel overwhelmed, as well as reduce my own anxiety. We wanted to be intentional about making math approachable and understandable.”

 For more information, contact Kimberly Villotti, administrative consultant for Early Childhood Education, at or (515)201-5067.


Data can support teacher leaders in fostering change

 Although teachers have access to a great deal of data, they do not often use that data to drive classroom instruction. Teacher leaders may  have the responsibility of being a data coach to support teachers in analyzing, interpreting and using a variety of data to improve decision making at the classroom and school level.  Data may include student work samples, classroom observations, formative assessments and standardized test results.

Teacher leaders may help teachers interpret data, but most importantly they help teachers to use data to make informed decisions about student learning.  Teacher leaders can help individuals, teams, and administrators discover how to best use data.  In order to facilitate these types of data-based conversations, teacher leaders need to establish an environment that allows teachers to feel safe.  A critical part of any data-based conversation is being able to identify an action based on the data. 

Leaders can help to focus on the area that may make the greatest impact for the action.  These areas could include instruction, formative assessment, lesson planning, instructional resources, and professional learning. Teacher leaders who coach around data are instrumental school improvement.  Teacher leaders may spend a large amount of time in the area of data based decision making.

Killion, J., & Harrison, C. (2017). Taking the lead: new roles for teachers and school-based coaches.  Second Edition. National Staff Development Council: Oxford. OH.

For more information, contact Lora Rasey, Teacher Leadership and Compensation consultant, at or (515) 419-2088.

TLC Success Story Logo

Asking the right questions

Data drives changes in Indianola’s TLC program

Leaders of Indianola Community School District’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) program have been focused on using data to improve the implementation of their program since the district was first funded three years ago. But this year they are sharpening their focus to examine the data that will help them assess the impact of instructional coaching on student achievement. 

“We’ve been looking at the same sources of data that other districts have – the Iowa Assessments and FAST assessments – but now we want to get a bit more specific about the impact that coaching is having on instruction and student learning,” Kevin Schlomer, district TLC coordinator, said. “Can we identify some places where students have made growth and can that growth be connected back to the coaches’ work? This is the question we want to focus on.”

Funded through TLC are 11 full-time positions – instructional coaches and program development coaches. While the instructional coaches focus on supporting improved instruction, the program development coaches are working with teachers in the areas of standards and assessments and the Iowa Academic Standards. In addition to the full-time positions, TLC also funds release time for 23 Collaboration and Innovation (C and I) teachers and 27 members of the district leadership team.

Kim Grissom, who will replace Schlomer as TLC coordinator July 1, said she will be looking specifically at the C and I teachers because “that is where TLC meets the classroom. Those teachers work closely with coaches who support their professional learning. We hope to gather some data on the C and I teachers and we’ll be looking for change over time,” she said.

One example of how this district uses data to assess the TLC program is a study they conducted on the amount of instructional coaches’ time that is devoted to working with teachers in a coaching cycle. The recommended amount of time was 60-70 percent, but they found that due to competing instructional management duties (working with teachers on FAST assessment implementation and interventions), elementary coaches were actually spending less than 10 percent of their time coaching teachers through improvement cycles. Although leadership agreed that these instructional management tasks were important, they were taking a lot of time. 

As a result of their study, the district will add an elementary at-risk coordinator to work with student interventions, MTSS, and the FAST assessments in reading and mathematics. This position will begin in the fall of 2018. Their hope is that this will free up instructional coaches to focus on working with teachers in improving instruction through coaching cycles.