About two years ago, the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Area Education Agencies (AEAs) started work on an effort to operate more effectively and efficiently as a full educational system. One year ago, educators from local school districts joined the effort to provide an aligned system to ensure that each and every Iowa student is provided excellence in education. This effort is called Collaborating for Iowa’s Kids (C4K).
During the 2012-13 school year it was decided by this group of over 120 educators that we needed to focus our work. A goal was set that all learners will be proficient in reading by the end of third grade across sub groups. Making the focus early literacy coincided with the Governor’s reform effort and the goal of improving Iowa’s student achievement.
One of the top strategies for states that saw larger gains in achievement than Iowa was the use of Response to Intervention (RtI). The RtI framework became a way that we could reach every student in every school in Iowa. The State of Iowa is now “all in” for implementing RtI. The Department of Education has invested $2.8 million for the 2013-14 school year to purchase the Technology and Information Educational Services (TIES) database system, which will provide a universal screener for all PK—sixth-grade students. The state has also purchased a progress monitoring and intervention system call the Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST) for elementary students and the Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDI) for preschoolers.
The Department of Education, the AEAs and the LEAs are now in the process of establishing training for the first 10 percent of the elementary schools in the state of Iowa. The implementation of this system is going to be done in a four-phase process. Phase I will include 90 elementary schools across the state. Training and support for school teams to implement this data system and assessments is currently in progress. From Sept. 9-13, each one of the 90 schools sent five members of their teams to the state to be trained with AEA and Department of Education staff.
Many educators have already asked how this will be different from implementing former state initiatives in the past. The difference is that this is a research-based effort that will be web-based and will reach every student in every classroom in the state. Every student will be given the universal screener. Every teacher will be provided high-quality validated tools to help with intervention for every student that is at risk of not being proficient in Reading Language Arts. A sustained financial commitment has been made and clarification of responsibility for all the educational levels of the system has been identified. This effort is more comprehensive, organized, and supported than any other effort in the past.
I have confidence that the Response to Intervention implementation, with the oversight of the Collaborating for Iowa Kids, will make a difference in Iowa.
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Dr. Tim Grieves