Teachers, administrators say they’ve noticed a difference since adopting Iowa Core

ELDRIDGE, Iowa -- Several years after implementing Iowa Core, teachers and administrators say standards-based learning is working. Data to back up those claims, though, may still be several years away.

In 2010, Iowa adopted the Common Core, making its standards part of the Iowa Core. Standards-based learning focuses on what students should know and be able to do at each grade level.

Jessica Dauscher, a fifth grade teacher at Ed White Elementary, says she's already noticed a difference in the classroom.

"My first year, the students... it took awhile for that idea of theme, that deep hidden meaning of a story, to kinda come out," said Dauscher.

Today's students, she says, are able to tackle that kind of deeper thinking much sooner in the school year.

"These kids have been steeped in it, and it's just a little bit easier for them to pick up what I'm throwing down," said Dauscher.

Finding data to prove the success or failure of Iowa Core, though, is more complicated. North Scott Superintendent Joe Stutting says the state's standardized tests, known as Iowa Assessments, don't match the way schools teach today.

"The current test doesn't align 100 percent to what we're teaching and the standards we're teaching, and it has not had anything invested in it in two years, because it's a test they know is going away," said Stutting.

National researchers have had difficulty measuring the impact of Common Core standards, as well. A 2016 study by the Brown Center on Education Policy showed adopters of Common Core outperformed their peers initially, but those effects faded over time.

Both Stutting and Dauscher agree that the switch to standards-based learning has come with some challenges. The biggest difficulty, they say, has been explaining the changes to parents.

"Communication with parents is kind of a challenge sometimes to express what standards-based is all about, because we all have in the back of our mind what we grew up doing," said Dauscher.

Still, school leaders insist standards-based learning is working.

"I'm always at awe when I'm in a kindergarten or first grade room, and I see them doing math and reading and writing, and I'm going, 'Wow.' Ten years ago, 15 years ago, this would have been two years later in their life," said Stutting.

Teachers also say the switch to standards-based learning has helped make the transition easier for students moving in and out of the district.