03 January 2012

Is There Anything the Iowa Core Can't Do??

Ask anyone.  I believe in the Iowa Core.  Margaret Kelly, the District's former curriculum director, has heard this question very often.  "How did you do this job without the Core?"

I believe that the Iowa Core will increase student achievement, deepen teacher content knowledge, and make learning institutions more accountable for struggling learners.  There are several facets of the Core, just as there are within any curriculum.  First, there are the essential concepts and skills in social sciences, science, financial literacy, health literacy, technological literacy, employability, and civic literacy.  Secondly, there are the grade level Common Core objectives, the national curriculum that has been absorbed into the Iowa Core for Reading, Speaking, Listening, Writing, and Mathematics.  These two aspects encompass the "WHAT" of the Iowa Core.

The "HOW" of the Iowa Core is detailed within the Characteristics of Effective Instruction (CEI).  For a brief overview of each characteristic, please visit: http://www.k12connections.iptv.org/documents/teacherLib_character_11mar09.pdf

Finally, the Iowa Core consists of the Universal Constructs.  I like to think of these constructs as the very broad, very large umbrella that covers everything-the essential concepts and skills, grade level objectives, characteristics of effective instruction, and even the overall philosophy of the Iowa Core.  The five constructs are: flexibility/adaptability, productivity/accountability, creativity, complex communication, and collaboration.  Whether thinking about ourselves as employees, employers, or learners, the Constructs speak to what it takes to be successful in 2012 and beyond.  Students can also be evaluated based on these constructs.  A phrase often heard in education is "lifelong learner".  The Constructs address the "WHY" of the Iowa Core.  In order for adults and students alike to live as lifelong learners, they must strive to be all things indicated in the Constructs.  Please check out what Route 21 has to say about Iowa's 21st Century work relating to the Constructs: http://route21.p21.org/?option=com_content&view=article&id=148&Itemid=237

So, some may think that I am too optimistic about the potential of the Core.  This I know-regardless of what educational and legislative changes may occur in the near and distant future, the knowledge gained due to our work with the Core will not waiver.  Teachers know more about their students because of our work.  Teachers know more about their content areas because of our work.  For those that say this too shall pass, consider Pocahontas Area Community School:
http://www.ia-sb.org/uploadedFiles/IASB/Convention_Web/Convention_2011/Quantum%20Leap%20into%20the%2021st%20Century.pdf

What is RTI?

As I prepare for helping administrators and teachers move forward with their Response to Intervention (RTI) work for students, I wanted to write a quick entry to help all stakeholders further their knowledge.  However, I think it might be more prudent if I share some sites with readers to ensure that all are getting information first hand.  Please find the link below to a website dedicated to RTI.

What is RTI?

A Rose by Any Other Name...

Middle school concept, response to intervention, professional learning community, instructional decision making...sigh.  When do we start focusing on the work instead of on trying to keep up with the most current name for doing the right thing for students?  As our state moves closer to systemically embracing response to intervention (RTI), I think more and more about what that means for students and teachers in Fairfield, IA, specifically, for our middle school students and teachers. 


What I have concluded is simple.  All terms have basked in the educational spotlight in recent years for a reason.  They all focus on the right work...doing what is necessary to ensure that all students are achieving at high levels.  Richard DuFour, author of Whatever it Takes, lays out a system of reaching all students in three questions:  1) What is it we want students to learn? 2) How are we going to know when they have or have not learned it? 3) What are we going to do once we know they have not learned it?  This basic framework defines the purpose of middle school teams and their work.  


So, as you continue to slog through educational jargon, please do not get frustrated with the changing terms and new structures.  Authors continue to process, innovate, re-structure, and re-package in order to keep schools focused on the right work.  Remember, there is not vocabulary quiz, but rather the measure of our success is that of our students. 


If you are interested in reading the article that prompted my reflection, please go to: http://www.amle.org/Publications/MiddleSchoolJournal/Articles/September2007/Article1/tabid/1496/Default.aspx