Iowa Core: A Few Thoughts

Why bother reading the Iowa Core Curriculum?  Standards may be relatively unimportant in the whole scheme of things, but they give us insight into policymakers’ vision of education in Iowa and they will likely be used to justify textbook selection and instructional practices at our local public schools.  Where is the education leadership trying to take us and do we really want to go there?  Is centralized control of education a good development for Iowa students?

The Iowa Core Curriculum consists of (at least) seven documents numbering over 500 pages: the Model Core Curriculum, K-12 Literacy, K-12 Mathematics, K-12 Science, K-12 Social Studies, 21st Century Skills, and Birth to Five.  The Model Core Curriculum is available for download here.   Birth to Five is available for download here.   The other documents are available at the Iowa Core website.  [Note:  I am using downloaded versions dated January 2009 and July 2009.  Changes may have been made since I downloaded these documents.]

Some questions to consider:

Who wrote these documents?

What content and skills were chosen?  Do they reflect content and skills of enduring value or more ephemeral in nature?  Do they build a strong foundation for college-level work without remediation?  Do they reflect college admissions requirements?  Do they reflect developmentally appropriate expectations?  That is, are children being expected master foundational, basic skills or are they expected to behave as experts?  What are the opportunity costs?

How are the content and skills to be taught?  Are the methods efficient in the use of classroom time, student time outside of class, money, and resources?  Are the methods effective in helping students learn the content and develop their skills?  What are the opportunity costs?  How will we know if students have acquired the content knowledge and skills?

Why these particular changes?  What is the evidence that integrating content rather than using more traditional subject disciplines is necessary or desirable?  What is the evidence that these methods will result in higher student achievement than more traditional methods?

I hope to work my way through all of the documents (again), starting with the Model Core Curriculum.