January 14, 2014

Iowa Department of Education director Brad Buck on Monday announced a new state commission to help ensure that Iowa's academic standards for what students should know and be able to do from kindergarten through 12th grade are put into practice successfully in schools statewide.

"Clear, uniform standards raise the bar on what we expect from all students, and Iowa has a strong foundation in place with the Iowa Core standards," Buck said in a press release. "However, it's not enough to set rigorous standards and expect schools to figure out how to help students reach those standards. Schools need more support."

The Iowa Core Commission is an advisory group of 21 Iowans, including teachers, school administrators, education associations, higher-education leaders, business leaders, and Iowa Department of Education staff members. This group's work will focus on strengthening a statewide implementation plan and improving communication from the state level to local schools.

"It's clear there's a fair amount of confusion around what implementing the Iowa Core means and looks like in schools," Buck said. "While it's important to continue to leave instructional decisions up to local schools and teachers, they are clearly telling us the state must step up to help them implement these standards successfully."

Carroll Community School District superintendent Rob Cordes said this commission will not impact the district's plans to move forward with ongoing initiatives to implement core standards.

"We don't typically have a lot of communication with committees created at the state level," he said.

The 21-person commission includes 11 representatives from Des Moines, two form Cedar Rapids, three from Cedar Falls, one from Dubuque, one form Urbandale and three from rural areas, including Elkader, Charles City and Glenwood.

"I think that's pretty typical of the commissions and committees they have in Des Moines," Cordes said of the small rural representation.

The Iowa Core standards establish what students are expected to learn in mathematics, English/language arts, science and social studies from kindergarten through 12th grade. They reflect real-world knowledge and skills that students need to graduate from high school prepared for success in postsecondary education and training.

Iowa was the last state in the nation to adopt statewide standards in 2008. State legislators led this shift away from locally determined standards, which had caused inconsistent expectations in schools across the state.

Implementation of the standards is an ongoing process led locally by schools and school districts with assistance from the Iowa Department of Education and area education agencies. Legislatively mandated deadlines for full implementation are the 2012-13 school year for high schools and 2014-15 for kindergarten through eighth grades.

The new commission's work falls in line with Iowa's role in a consortium of rural states to successfully put into practice statewide standards. The state consortium, which also includes Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, is working with consulting firm Education Delivery Institute through a grant funded by the Council of Chief State School Officers, an association of state school chiefs.

The Iowa Core Commission will meet for the first time Wednesday, Jan. 15, from 9 a.m. to noon in Room B50 of the Grimes State Office Building. Meetings are open to the public.