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Welcome to the Iowa Content Network, a support site for the Iowa Professional Development Model. This website is designed to help school districts identify content for implementing district and building career development plans. Once student achievement goals have been set, based on analysis of achievement data, planners need to determine instructional strategies that are most likely to increase student learning. Professional development plans can then be developed to build the capacity among teachers to implement these strategies in their classrooms.

Instructional strategies with the best chance of having a positive impact on student achievement are those with a demonstrated track record of effectiveness across settings, time, and students. Commitment to focus on scientifically based research is at the heart of both the Iowa Student Achievement and Teacher Quality Legislation (2001) and the national No Child Left Behind Act (2001). This website is intended to help professional development planners identify scientifically based research strategies. Although research has been synthesized for effective strategies in reading, mathematics, and science, this site does not include recommendations for specific strategies. It is up to planners to determine which strategy will meet the specific needs of the students in their districts. Ultimately, districts should be confident that the content they choose for their professional development plans will improve student achievement.



In 2004, the Iowa Department of Education organized teams to review research in reading, mathematics, and science. These teams received training on how to locate and evaluate the quality of research. Since that time, team members have located, reviewed, and synthesized quality research on effective teaching strategies in each content area. Each study was summarized according to a standardized form prepared by the Iowa Department of Education. Website users have access to these syntheses, research reviews and many of the source documents that content teams used to explore effective instructional strategies.

Because of the overlap in purpose and outcomes, efforts of the Adolescent Literacy Research and Development Team (ALRDT) were integrated into the Iowa Content Network. Research reviews prepared by the ALRDT (Iowa Department of Education, 2008), were either adapted from or contributed substantially to a number of syntheses that appear on this site.



Each team used a variety of sources to become familiar with the background and context of their disciplines as well as to identify current and seminal research in the area (see Figure 1). Examples of each of these sources are listed below.

Graphic of sources used for background and review articles.

Figure 1. Sources for background and review articles.


Published Research Reviews Include:

  • Handbook of Reading Research (Kamil, Mosenthal, Pearson, & Barr, 2000)
  • Handbook of Research on Teaching (Wittrock, 1986)
  • Handbook of Research on Science Teaching and Learning (Gabel, 1994)
  • Adding it up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics (Kilpatrick, Swafford, & Findell, 2001)
  • Research Companion to Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (Kilpatrick, Martin, & Schifter, 2003)
  • Building Reading Proficiency at the Secondary Level (Peterson, Caverly, Nicholson, O’Neal, & Cusenbary, 2000)
  • Re-conceptualizing Extra Help for High School Students in a High Standards Era (Balfanz, McPartland, & Shaw, 2002)


Published Research Articles from scholarly journals such as:

  • Research in the Teaching of English
  • Reading Research Quarterly
  • English Journal
  • Journal of Research in Mathematics Education
  • School, Science, and Mathematics
  • Journal of Research in Science Teaching


Professional Organization Publications Include:


Published Program Ratings


National Review Panel Publications

  • What Works Clearinghouse (U. S. Department of Education, 2002)
  • Mathematics education in the middle grades: Teaching to meet the needs of middle grades learners and to maintain high expectations (Mathematical Sciences Education Board, 2000)
  • Put Reading First: The research building blocks of reading instruction (Ambruster, & Osborn, 2003)




Criteria for selecting studies to be reviewed were initially developed by each content area team, guided by the goals of the Iowa Student Achievement and Teacher Quality Legislation (2001). According to these criteria, appropriate studies:

  • Addressed student achievement (i.e. student achievement was the dependent variable)
  • Examined the impact of programs, strategies, models, practices, routines or skills (i.e., these were the independent variables)
  • Are empirical
  • Were published in peer-reviewed sources or were conducted by independent, third parties.

One more criterion was added after the release of NCLB. To help educators implement the new legislation, the U.S. Department of Education developed a 5-point scale to rate research studies according to the quality of their designs. Designs at the low end of the scale provide little if any, evidence of cause-and-effect relationships between an instructional strategy (the independent variable) and student achievement (the dependent variable). Studies with designs at the high end of the rating scale produced much stronger evidence of causal relationships. Only those studies that rated a 3 or more on the rating scale were reviewed by the Iowa Content Network teams.

NOTE: Ratings apply to the research design, not to the quality of the intervention studied or how powerful the method, strategy, or approach influences overall student achievement.

A description of each level of the rating scale may be found under "The Research Continuum" on the Definitions page.



There are separate sections of the website for each content area. The introductory page briefly describes the current status of the area including achievement data for U.S. and Iowa students. Links are provided at the end of the introductory page to research syntheses of evidence-based instructional strategies. Each synthesis contains a description of the strategy, evidence that supports its impact on achievement and directions for designing professional development to increase faculty capacity to implement the strategy successfully.

The pages of this website are designed to provide users access to a range of information to meet their specific needs. Each page contains substantive information on the instructional strategies. Links are provided in the text to the sources referenced in the research syntheses. These links will take the reader directly to the source or to the summary of the study prepared by the content team members. Each section ends with a list of references that are also linked to the original source or the summary.



Ambruster, B. B., & Osborn, J. (2003). Put reading first: The research building blocks of reading instruction (2nd edition). Rockville, MD: National Reading Panel.

American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1998). Textbooks with the potential for helping students learn algebra. Washington, DC: Author.

Balfanz, R., McPartland, J., & Shaw, A. (2002). Re-conceptualizing extra help for high school students in high standards era. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University.

Gabel, D. L. (Ed.). (1994). Handbook of research on science teaching and learning. New York, NY: MacMillan.

Iowa Department of Education. (2005). Iowa Professional Development Model: Technical Guide. Des Moines, IA: Author.

Iowa Department of Education (2008). Accelerating adolescent literacy: A report from Iowa’s Adolescent literacy Research and Development Team. Des Moines, IA: Author.

Iowa Student Achievement and Teacher Quality Act of 2001

Kamil, M. L., Mosenthal, P. B., Pearson, P. D., & Barr, R. (Eds.) (2000). Handbook of reading research: Volume III. New York, NY: Erlbaum.

Kilpatrick, J., Martin, W. G., & Schifter, D. (2003). A research companion to principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Kilpatrick, J., Swafford, J., & Findell, B. (2001). Adding it up: Helping children learn mathematics. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Mathematical Sciences Education Board. (2000). Mathematics education in the middle grades: Teaching to meet the needs of middle grades learners and to maintain high expectations. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.

National Council of Teachers of English (1996). Standards of the English Language. Urbana, IL: Authors.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (1989). Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: Authors.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, § 1001, 115 Stat. 1425 (2002).

Peterson, C. L., Caverly, D. C., Nicholson, S. A., O’Neil, S., &Cusenbary, S. (2000). Building reading proficiency at the secondary level: A guide to resources. Austin, TX: SEDL.

Rutherford, F. H., & Ahlgren, A. (1991). Science for all Americans. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

U. S. Department of Education. (1999). Exemplary and promising programs in mathematics.

U. S. Department of Education (2002). What works clearinghouse.

Wittrock, M. C. (1986). Handbook of research on teaching (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Macmillan.


Go to the Content Network website.

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on November 27, 2015 at 7:41pm.