Director Wise: Transitions abound, new school year begins
August is about transition. Families open the month with leisurely summer activities and close it by rushing kids to class and to practice. Teachers and administrators shift their focus from their own professional learning to the learning of their students. And at the Iowa Department of Education, we reflect and plan before our schools and community colleges launch into a new year.
In the waning days of summer, the Department is working diligently to ensure we’re ready to support the work of our partners. First, the Department is developing guidance on Iowa’s Early Literacy Initiative. Stakeholders have raised important questions, particularly related to the law’s provisions on assessing reading proficiency and determining if students are ready to advance to fourth grade. We know these are important issues to educators and to families. Our focus is on providing clear, accurate and comprehensive information to assist schools in ensuring all students have the foundational literacy skills they need to succeed in school and beyond.
Second, the Department is assembling information and resources to help schools make a smooth transition to a new statewide assessment system. While schools will not administer the new assessment until the 2017-18 school year, we know this will be a big shift for schools and they need time and support to prepare. Our new assessment webpage provides an overview on why Iowa is switching to a new state assessment, answers to common questions, links to practice tests and a timeline for professional learning.
Third, the Department is engaging stakeholders in the implementation of House File 2392, the comprehensive Career and Technical Education (CTE) reform passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor in May. We hosted 10 listening sessions in July to seek public input on regional partnership formation, career academy components, and program approval requirements. We’ll continue to collaborate as we transition into writing administrative rules to guide implementation and raise the quality of secondary CTE in Iowa.
Finally, August will mark the transition from studying and understanding the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to actively collaborating with stakeholders across Iowa to shape the state’s plan. The Department is eager to engage in meaningful dialogue and planning as we develop a coherent and aligned system of accountability and support. Stay informed on and engaged in this effort by visiting our ESSA webpage regularly.
In addition to new efforts I’ve mentioned, the Department is hard at work strengthening many of the initiatives launched or piloted last year. These include Differentiated Accountability, the Iowa School Report Card, and the new At-Risk and Dropout Prevention Modified Supplemental Amount (MSA) application system. Our teams have used the summer to reflect and plan as we improve each of these efforts.
So as we collectively mark the transitions August brings, the Iowa Department of Education stands ready to support our communities and schools. We look forward to the work in the year ahead.