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Instructional Decision-Making

April 14, 2009

The Iowa Department of Education supports and advocates that schools and school districts adopt an instructional decision-making process. The Department has developed an instructional decision-making framework. The key features are: a) “each student has access to, as well as an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of, a guaranteed and viable curriculum which demonstrates rigor and relevance (Iowa Core Curriculum); b) a defined process assisting general education classroom teachers and administrators in meeting the academic and affective needs of children through core, supplemental, and intensive instructional cycles; and c) continual monitoring using student performance data so that the process is fluid and flexible moving students through the cycles to meet their unique learning needs. Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency (AEA) has been piloting the implementation of the Department’s instructional decision-making process during the past four years. Bellevue, Bettendorf, Clinton, Columbus, Davenport, Delwood, Durant, Muscatine, Northeast, and Wilton school districts have school sites participating in pilot implementation activities.

The pilot implementation efforts have been facilitated in two ways: a) school projects funded by the Iowa Department of Education; and b) participation in the Accelerating Student Achievement Pilot project that is exploring ways to improve Mississippi Bend AEA service delivery to support improved student achievement. These activities involve 18 schools: 3 high schools, 5 middle schools, and 10 elementary schools. The schools have established targets based on their building student data. The sites have addressed reading, mathematics, differentiated instruction, social/emotional learning, and positive behavior supports. The sites have implemented processes that address instruction all students receive (core cycle), instruction some students receive to assist or enrich their learning (supplemental cycle), and instruction a few students receive to support fundamental or accelerate skill development (intensive cycle). The schools have identified practices, strategies, or interventions using student data to meet the unique needs of students. The sites have struggled with finding high quality assessments, gathering consistent student data, and analyzing student data in a timely manner. The sites addressed these struggles by having more time for teachers to work as collaborative teams. Therefore, teachers were able to consider many assessment options and improve implementation consistencies.
The pilot projects have fostered more interest in district-wide adoption of instructional decision-making. Muscatine Community School District is an example where their two school site pilot projects have generated interest in a district-wide roll-out to begin spring 2009. Other districts have begun considering similar district-wide implementation efforts. It is anticipated many districts will begin instructional decision-making implementation activities in concert with their Iowa Core Curriculum implementation effort. Instructional decision-making is a key aspect of the Iowa’s overall comprehensive school improvement efforts. More information can be found by visiting the Iowa Department of Education’s website,, inside the diverse learners section. For more information about Mississippi Bend AEA’s instructional decision-making pilot projects and support, please contact Dr. Edward Gronlund, (563) 344-6315 or   

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