Common Core in Iowa: What you need to know
What is the Iowa Core?
One central component of a great school system is a clear set of expectations, or standards, that educators help all students reach. In Iowa, that effort is known as the Iowa Core.
The Iowa Core represents our statewide academic standards, which describe what students should know and be able to do in math, science, English language arts and social studies. The Iowa Core also addresses 21st century skills in areas such as financial and technology literacy.
These state standards provide Iowa students, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders with a clear, common understanding of what students are expected to learn at every grade level, regardless of where they live.
The standards establish what Iowa students need to learn, but not how to teach. Local schools and teachers continue to create lesson plans and tailor instruction to fit the needs of their students.
Iowa was the last state in the nation to adopt statewide standards in 2008.
- Iowa legislators led this shift away from locally determined standards, which had caused inconsistent expectations in schools across the state.
- Iowa educators identified and wrote the essential concepts and skills that make up the Iowa Core.
What is the Common Core?
As Iowa worked to develop and implement the Iowa Core, a consortium of states across the nation formed to develop common standards for English/language arts and math.
This effort is called the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core was designed for states through an initiative launched by state education chiefs and governors nationwide.
The Common Core builds on the best state-developed academic standards, as well as the academic standards of top-performing school systems around the world. The Common Core grew out of a desire to make sure teachers and parents share high expectations for students so they can succeed in our increasingly competitive global marketplace. Most states have adopted the Common Core.
In Iowa, the State Board of Education voted in 2010 to blend the Iowa Core with the Common Core through authority vested in the board by the Iowa Legislature. This was an easy decision since the Iowa Core was already similar to the Common Core but embodied some higher academic standards. The overarching goal is to make sure Iowa students meet high state academic standards so they’re ready for college or career training after high school.
For years, states independently developed academic standards.
- Over time, state leaders across the country recognized that many students were graduating from high school unprepared for the demands of college and careers.
- In 2007, education leaders began discussing the idea of working together to develop academic expectations for English/language arts and math to ensure all students graduate prepared for the next step.
What the Common Core IS NOT:
The Common Core is not a federally driven initiative to force all schools to teach the same lesson plans, use the same textbooks, or to undermine the creativity of teaching professionals. The Common Core was developed by a coalition of states led by governors and state education chiefs through their membership in the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The Common Core was not developed and implemented in secret. Forty-eight states took part in the development, drawing on the expertise of content specialists, teachers, school administrators, and parents. The process was open for public comment, and more than 10,000 comments were received. The standards were created for voluntary adoption in states through their own unique processes. In Iowa, the standards were discussed and adopted by the State Board of Education at public meetings in 2010.
The Common Core will not lead to the sharing of massive amounts of personal student data, such as religious practices and political beliefs. The Iowa Department of Education collects information on student populations, demographics and achievement results to learn how schools in Iowa are changing, to follow the academic progress of students from preschool to high school, and to guide efforts to improve our education system. Students are not identified by name, and student-level data are not shared with the federal government.
Iowa is not receiving federal funding to implement the Common Core as part of the Iowa Core and would lose no federal money if the state stopped using the Common Core. The Iowa Department of Education has a $2 million state appropriation for fiscal year 2014 to support the work of Iowa Core implementation. No department positions are funded through Iowa Core dollars. Most of the funding is sent directly to the Area Education Agencies, which provide direct support to schools.
The Common Core is not a one-size-fits-all approach that undermines local schools or assumes every student learns the same way. The standards give students, parents, and teachers a clear, common understanding of what students need to learn at every grade level, but does not dictate how to teach. Each Iowa school district decides what curriculum to use to deliver the Iowa Core, and Iowa teachers design and develop the lessons used in their classrooms. Modifications to the standards may be made for special education students based on their individual learning needs. States also can build on the Common Core to set even higher standards.