Building partnerships, focusing on learning
While the school year has only just begun, the Iowa Department of Education is already planning a year ahead. We’ve fully launched our stakeholder engagement efforts in developing Iowa’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan.
As I’ve previously stated, this federal legislation maintains a focus on transparency and accountability while returning more authority to states and local school districts to set goals and create systems of support that will improve student learning. Iowa has a significant opportunity with the passage of ESSA to think broadly, and in partnership, about what we as a state want this law to do in service of students.
On August 18, the Department convened an advisory committee of educators and representatives of school boards, area education agencies, education associations and parents. The meeting focused on the big ideas and opportunities contained in ESSA.
As part of the session, the Department asked members to share their hopes and priorities for the development of Iowa’s ESSA plan. They expressed a range of ideas, which included:
- Shifting the paradigm from No Child Left Behind to what is best for the growth of all students.
- Finding “the magic in the may” that delivers the promise of the title of the act.
- Bringing common sense focus to the use of assessments.
- Maintaining accountability and maximizing flexibility.
- Ensuring we keep the tools we need to help kids succeed.
- Focusing on student learning and not just accountability.
- Building capacity within schools.
- Creating stronger partnerships between families, communities, and schools.
Committee members also provided input on an initial theory of action, which describes both the actions and the results Iowa hopes to achieve through the implementation of the state ESSA plan. The theory of action addresses the major components of the law, including: early childhood education, educator quality, accountability and school intervention, as well as standards and assessments.
The voluminous feedback generated by the Committee made it clear that there are numerous ideas to consider, many voices to hear, and much work ahead.
Over the next six months, the Department will energetically seek input from all stakeholders. We will announce opportunities for feedback at public forums across Iowa this fall. We will also conduct targeted outreach to education advocacy groups, leg-islators, teacher and administrator preparation institutions, the business community, the media, other state agencies, and civil rights organizations.
The Department will create opportunities for all interested Iowans to learn what the law means and how Iowa can use it to set a coherent vision for student success across Iowa’s education system, as well as a system of accountability and support to reach that vision. The Department is committed to ensuring diverse voices have input in the development of this plan.
I encourage you to stay informed on and engaged in this effort by visiting our ESSA webpage regularly. I look forward to the work ahead!
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