A new instructional framework for Iowa
Iowa has the most robust approach to teacher leadership in the nation. No other state has invested more energy and resources than we have with the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) system. More than 10,000 teachers serve in compensated and defined leadership roles.
Empowering teachers to coach and mentor their colleagues and to share research-based best practices has built tremendous capacity in our schools. We’ve seen a seismic cultural shift from teaching as an isolated profession to one rooted in collaboration.
As the nature of the teaching profession has changed and the needs of our students have grown, the time is right for schools to develop a common language on what excellent teaching looks like. An instructional framework, also known as an instructional rubric or learning progression, creates a common instructional language and vision for quality teaching across an entire school district. Schools that share a common definition of effective teaching are well-positioned to maximize the impact of teacher leaders. By utilizing an instructional rubric, schools create consistency in the support and feedback teachers receive as they improve their practice.
Last year, the Iowa Department of Education surveyed schools about their use of instructional frameworks. We found that roughly 40 percent of districts currently used a framework. Districts that utilized a framework found that it maximized the impact of teacher leaders. For example, one respondent stated, “It has helped us be very specific in current performance levels, opportunities for growth and helped to guide our conversations in a specific and meaningful way for teachers.”
Expanding the use of instructional frameworks in Iowa was recommended by both the Council on Educator Development and a special work group the Department convened for several meetings in the fall of 2017. Given the increasing interest in and support of instructional rubrics, the Department issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) to select an instructional rubric for state-wide use. I am pleased to announce that the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) Iowa Instructional Framework System was the winning proposal.
NIET’s instructional framework, which is also part of the TAP system, is built around four domains of instructional practice (Instruction, Planning, Environment and Professionalism) with specific indicators for each, creating a common language for teacher practices and feedback, and guidance for professional growth.
NIET will provide training opportunities and supports for participating schools in implementing the Instructional Framework through a variety of approaches, including:
- 3-day Observer Training, delivered regionally, for all district leaders utilizing the Iowa Instructional Framework.
- Train the Trainer Series. This training series will be offered to a specific cadre of selected state and local stakeholders who will become certified to train and coach future observers using the observer training agenda and materials.
- Online Tools and Resource Training through NIET’s web-based platform, which includes resources and materials focused on supporting educators’ understanding of the Iowa Instructional Framework. These resources include a video library, training modules, online trainings, and professional development library.
- District check-ins with NIET to create customized plans for implementation and utilization based on district needs.
Use of this instructional framework by Iowa schools will be completely voluntary. If a district is currently using a different framework or rubric that works well in their context, they should feel empowered to continue as planned. For districts choosing to use the NIET framework, implementation begins in the fall of 2019 with the capacity for 100 districts to participate. A registration process and additional details will be shared later this month. I’m excited for a cohort of Iowa schools to engage in this work and to continue to build upon the foundation of excellent instruction in Iowa.
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