School officials discuss impact of new state standards

Career, technical education makes gains

Seventh grade Miller Middle School modular technology classmates Anna Smigowska, left, and Ella Spitzli, right, practice electrical work as part of a home maintenance exercise.

The Iowa State Board of Education passed down several decisions and recommendations recently, two of which will have high impact in Marshalltown – proficiency and career and technical education.

One major announcement was of a new set of career and technical education (CTE) standards, which will replace previous national standards. Career and technical education is geared toward readying students for the working world after high school.

“They’ve really stepped their game up,” Marshalltown Schools Director of Instruction Lisa Stevenson said of the state decision on CTE.

The main career areas of focus in the state standards include:

• Agriculture, food and natural resources

• Business, finance, marketing and management

• Information solutions/information technology

• Health science

• Human services/family and consumer sciences

“Our kids in Marshalltown get so much access to different program areas that fall under career and technical education, probably more than anyone in our area could offer in terms of programming for kids,” Stevenson said.

Such study areas at Marshalltown High School include business, family and consumer science, industrial technology and more. Miller Middle School students are included this year, too, with 17 modular technology programs on subjects like digital photography, home maintenance, culinary arts, graphic design and more.

District curriculum and professional development leader Dee Burt said the new state standards are welcome news.

“These standards are really critical because they provide a better expectation from each technical area that fits directly with workforce demands and skills and aptitudes,” Burt said.

She said the district’s career and technical education program followed the previous national standards and leaders are ready to take a close look at the new state standards.

Burt said district leaders continue to explore new options when it comes to CTE programs at Miller and the high school. She said the new standards align well with the district’s Bobcat Ready program to promote college and career readiness among students.

Focus on proficiency

The State Board of Education also adopted new proficiency recommendations after the first round of the new Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) was implemented in the spring.

“These recommendations are a testament to Iowa teachers who hold high expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said. “Having challenging statewide academic standards and a state test that better measures progress in meeting the standards will help prepare students for the demands of postsecondary education and the workforce.”

The test results released so far are at the statewide level, with localized data to be shared in October.

“We are anxious to get our results back. We’re looking forward to seeing them because the kids took the test late April to early May,” Stevenson said. “These results are very important to us because it gives us a picture of how our kids … are performing on a state assessment that is designed to measure grade-level only standards.”

Stevenson said in the previous statewide test, a fourth grade student was not only tested for fourth grade-level proficiency, but also had questions at the third grade and fifth grade levels.

The new test will be clearer about what areas the student is or is not proficient in for their grade level, she said.

Once the school-specific data is released, Stevenson said district leaders will know how different groups of students did on the test.

“We can look at how certain subgroups of kids performed, or certain grade levels, different buildings, trying to see who is having higher levels of success and learning from each other,” she said.

Stevenson said the district has focused on proficiency as a measurement of student success for years and will continue doing so.

The proficiency standards, she said, will help the district build goals for getting students who are not proficient closer to average for their grade level, as well as increase the number of students considered to have advanced proficiency.

“We really want to keep our staff and parents focused on how much growth kids make from one year to the next,” Stevenson said. “We just want to be able to have our kids grow as much as the state average or better.”