Director Wise: Working to make ESSA the right plan for Iowa
As educators, student success drives our work. While we may play different roles and work in various parts of the system, all of us are committed to meeting the needs of all Iowa students. We now have a federal policy framework, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which better supports these efforts.
Over the past year, the Iowa Department of Education has engaged stakeholders in a collaborative effort to develop Iowa’s ESSA plan. The Department posted the first draft of the plan for feedback on Jan. 6.
We received more than 100 comments on the plan through our online feedback form. In addition, we heard from people around the state at our nine informational tour events.
This outreach complements the steps we took in the fall, which included listening sessions in each Area Education Agency (AEA) region, targeted stakeholder outreach on specific topics, and multiple meetings with our ESSA statewide advisory committee. These actions were designed to ensure diverse voices have input in the development of this plan.
The Department is now beginning the process of revising the draft plan based upon the input we’ve received. The first window of feedback closed on Feb. 15 and the advisory committee met on Feb.17.
The plan is divided into six sections: long-term goals; consultation and performance management; academic assessments; accountability, support, and improvement for schools; supporting excellent educators; and supporting all students. While the federal government appears poised to eliminate the regulations that produced the template with these sections, I am confident that the major themes we address in the draft plan will be included in the final version regardless of the format in which we submit it.
While I don’t have the space here to share all of what we’ve heard, here are some of the questions the feedback is causing us to ask as we refine the plan:
- What are the pros and cons of including science as part of Iowa’s accountability measures?
- How should we provide communication about ESSA that is understandable to everyone?
- What are the pros and cons of using nationally recognized assessments for high school in lieu of a statewide assessment?
- What are strengths of the proposed school quality measure and what should be changed?
- How do we best partner with teacher and administrator preparation programs to support priorities outlined in the plan?
- Should we include a section on standards?
- What is the process we should use to develop examples of best practices in delivering a well-rounded education?
As we move forward in answering these questions within the context of Iowa’s ESSA plan, we will continue to ensure all voices are heard, including those who have traditionally been underrepresented in these conversations. We will also consult regularly with educators and other stakeholders, including our advisory committee, as we revise the plan.
As we move into the final third of the school year, I encourage you to stay engaged in the ESSA conversation. Check out the ESSA page of the Department’s website, send us your questions (email ESSA@iowa.gov), and review and comment on the revised draft when it is posted in May.
We truly appreciate the feedback we’ve received to date and we look forward to the work ahead.