Grant award, Computer Science Team, PE/Health Standards update

lead tech learn

November 22, 2019   Vol. 14

From the Bureau of Leading, Teaching, Learning Services


EL with signficant cognitive disabilities

Iowa takes national lead in developing test to bring equity to some students

Iowa will take the lead in developing an assessment test for English learners who have significant cognitive disabilities. Once developed, the test will be used by more than a dozen states nationwide.

Currently, students with significant cognitive disabilities and whose native language isn’t English receive the standard English learners assessment, which tests whether a student is proficient in English. Even with modifications in terms of how the test is delivered to each student, the standard test has proven inadequate to truly measure what students in this subgroup know.

The Iowa Department of Education is working in partnership with UCLA’s CRESST program, which is a national education innovation research center. Together, they will develop the assessment with the help of an approximately $7.8 million federal grant.

“This grant puts Iowa in the lead in ensuring equitable and fair assessments of learning for all students,” said Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise. “While this population of students is small, the barriers they face are significant. This grant will help create tests tailored to their needs, which will give us accurate insight into what they are learning.”

The subgroup is small – approximately 1 percent of all students who are English learners. In Iowa, that accounts for less than 400 students.

“This is a state and federal priority,” said Erika Cook, a bureau chief at the Department. “A state the size of Iowa cannot afford to do this alone for such a small number of students.

“But the law also says that all students deserve access to the same learning and assessments, something we as a state are passionate about. This grant and newly created assessment will finally give these students the assessment they deserve.”

The new consortium, the Collaborative for the Alternate Assessment of English Language Proficiency, includes Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia.


For more information, contact Erika Cook at or (515) 240-3103.

Lyn Jenkins head shot

Increased support for new standards

New consultant brings together physical education and health leadership team


With the addition of physical education and health education standards recommended for Iowa’s schools has come a new position and a new face at the Iowa Department of Education. Lyn Jenkins began serving in the role of consultant for physical education and health education in July.

PE and health education standards were endorsed by the State Board last year. The team that recommended the standards also recommended the Department add a position to support them. “We are excited to have a new position supporting physical education and health learning at the Department,” said Erika Cook, chief of the Bureau of Leading, Teaching and Learning Services. “We want all of our students to become physically literate and engage in behaviors to enhance their health and wellness.”

Jenkins’ first major role has been the organization of a statewide leadership team. The leadership team will be tasked with recommending resources to support teachers in implementing the standards in their classrooms. She said she has recruited team members from a number of constituencies, including teachers, teacher leaders, area education agencies, and community partners. “I’ve tried to find people with a passion for physical education and health education,” she said, "who have the diverse experiences and expertise to provide leadership." The team’s first meeting was Nov. 6.

Jenkins said her background is in public health, including health education and child wellness, and sees real opportunities in engaging public health organizations in supporting their schools in health and physical education. She said that is reflected in the team’s membership, which includes representatives from public health and a physician who is a member the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For more information, contact Lyn Jenkins at or (515) 689-3607.

Mark your calendars!


Iowa Academic Standards Institute

Equitable Instruction:

English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Leadership

Date: June 15-17, 2020

Des Moines, IA

Young girls looking over a computer keyboard

Rural schools face challenges

Computer Science Leadership Team helps with finding solutions


Supporting rural schools in finding solutions to problems encountered in providing high quality computer science education is the work of Wren Hoffman, consultant, and the Statewide Computer Science Leadership Team.

“The Computer Science Statewide Leadership Team has representation from around the state so when we talk about computer science in rural Iowa, those with firsthand knowledge have intentionally been included,” Hoffman said.  The team comprises 35 members, including representation from the area education agencies, higher education, business partners, instructional coaches, and teachers.

Hoffman sees providing quality computer science education as an equity issue. “Students in rural Iowa have as much right to computer science education as those in urban areas. We need to arm educators and schools with the skills and knowledge to offer it,” she said. One problem is getting qualified staff to teach computer science. Most teachers didn't sign up to be a computer science teacher and “yet every single one of them can, and needs to. We are creating opportunities to support that,” Hoffman said.

Computer science professional development for teachers in rural schools can be cost prohibitive. While a number of programs may offer free curriculum to schools, the professional development that teachers need to teach that curriculum can be costly. Additionally, Hoffman said, the professional development probably isn’t available in Iowa, adding travel and lodging to the expense. To help address this issue, the statewide team is creating five modules about computer science, why it is important, and what Iowa’s standards are. Hoffman said these modules will be available through AEA Learning Online in May 2020.

The availability of business partners is also a perceived problem for some rural schools. “In many communities, business partners provide a lot of support. They might buy devices for student use, pay for teachers’ travel to professional learning, help teachers build units or add resources to them or talk with a class or the school about what computer science looks like in their company,” she said.

Any school can address the issue of business partners with the Future Ready Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning, Hoffman said. “You can pull a project from any place in the state from that,” she said. She also pointed out that there is a Business Inventory on the site. “Those business have already volunteered to help. Schools could reach out to any business listed in the inventory.”

Funding for computer science education is also part of the solution. The Computer Science  Professional Development Incentive Fund helps schools pay for professional learning or university coursework for teaching endorsements in computer science. In 2018-19, $1 million was allocated to school districts through this competitive grant. In the current school year, $500,000 was given out. Hoffman said it is her hope that this funding source will be available next year. Another competitive grant program for schools is the Computer Science is Elementary initiative. A collaborative effort between the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and the Department of Education, this project provided 12 high-poverty elementary schools with $50,000 each to transform existing buildings with innovative computer science instruction this year. 

For more information, contact Wren Hoffman, or (515) 981-3306.

Head shot of Angela Matsuoka

Fine arts consultant elected to Committee

Matsuoka to support State Agency Fine Arts Directors organization

Angela Matsuoka, fine arts consultant, was recently elected to the Executive Committee of the State Education Agency Directors for Arts Education (SEADAE), an organization made up of those people who support arts education at state departments of education across the country. The purpose of the organization is to enhance the professional effectiveness of individual members and promote fine arts education in each state.  

Matsuoka’s commitment includes serving on the leadership council for the organization, helping to plan annual convening and general membership meetings, and participating in monthly meetings. “Meeting with other arts education leaders in job-alike roles has been very helpful to my work in Iowa,” she said.

The focus of SEADAE’s work each year aligns with the goals of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, which is one funding source for the group.  This year’s focus is promoting the arts through Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM). The annual convening included a day on best practices in STEAM. The organization plans to publish a White Paper this winter that will highlight the natural connections between the arts and STEM content areas.

“The paper will demonstrate how the standards in STEAM disciplines authentically fit together. The ways we communicate and create in the arts naturally align with problem solving in other disciplines. It’s about inquiry, dialogue, and experiential learning. "We’re attempting to show the arts are an integral part of the STEAM process and bring so much to it,” Matsuoka said.

Matsuoka began her teaching career in Washington, D.C., where she taught at both Cesar Chavez Public Charter for Public Policy High School – Capitol Hill and the Maya Angelou Public Charter Middle School. Then she moved to Des Moines and taught in Urbandale CSD for five years and Northwest Elementary in Ankeny for three years before coming to the Department of Education in July 2016.

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

Faculty discussion scene

New educational leadership standards

Department host Boot Camp for leadership preparation programs

During the summer the Department hosted a series of workshops designed to give faculty in Iowa’s nine educational leadership preparation programs the opportunity to study and determine actions needed to align their programs to the new National Educational Leadership Preparation (NELP) Standards. The Department plans to implement the new standards in 2020.

Matt Ludwig, consultant, was responsible for designing and implementing the workshops. According to Ludwig, the workshops were intended to give faculty a chance to think about how the NELP Standards could be embedded into their curriculum, candidate assessment, and clinical experiences. Workshops were held monthly in May, June, July, and August. 

“It was phenomenal. All nine programs participated. It wasn’t about competing against each other, but learning together. Many sent their entire faculty. They were thinking very deeply about how they might interface their programs with the NELP standards,” he said. “Many of them dropped everything to devote time to this work. We provided resources and tools that were appreciated and they said they wanted more.”

To meet the demand, Ludwig is planning six one-hour online sessions on topics participants  wanted to know more about. He anticipates providing sessions on topics like Teacher Leadership and Compensation, Differentiated Accountability, Early Childhood Programs, Educator Quality, and Iowa Academic Standards Implementation. “We’ll continue to tie those topics back to the NELP Standards,” he said.

Attendees interviewed said the Boot Camp was beneficial in improving their programs. Liz Hollingsworth, professor of education at the University of Iowa, attended with all the faculty in her principal preparation program. She said the Boot Camp provided her group with an opportunity to review the NELP Standards in a way that they wouldn’t have on our own. “Matt provided a framework for us to analyze our curriculum. He forced us to carve out time to be together,” she said.

Carol Page, program specialist/assistant professor at Viterbo University, was the only participant from her program. For her, attending with faculty from other programs was very helpful. “It was extremely beneficial to be in the room with people who ran other programs. I felt like I wasn’t alone. It was comforting to know that we all had the same questions. The networking among the group of people was well done and thoughtful,” she said.

Tim Van Soelen, director of the School Leadership program at Dordt College, said mapping the NELP standards into their principal leadership program was helpful. “We looked at the content of our coursework, field experiences, and the internship hours required of students. We made some changes that will lead to sustained and long-lasting learning. The program map we created will be very effective,” he said. “We’re making sure students have opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions the NELP Standards call for.”

For more information, contact Matt Ludwig, or (515) 515-326-5333.