A focus group was held on September 3rd, 2010 at Heartland AEA 11 to examine several proposals for integrating the Common Core State Standards ("Common Core"), adopted by the Iowa State Board of Education, into the Iowa Curriculum Alignment Toolkit (I-CAT).
Heartland's alignment specialist facilitated the focus group session using the visual presentation and handout found here. Focus group members were free to ask questions and engage in conversation freely with the facilitator, Heartland administrators, and each other throughout the 20 minute session. At the end of the session, focus group members took approximately 2-3 minutes to independently complete the I-CAT/Common Core Integration Survey online.
Table 1. Table of rank order ratings for each of the three proposals and total number of responses by proposal
Overall, Proposal C received the highest ratings. Anecdotally, conversation during the focus group centered on the idea that there is still a desire to get broader information about what teachers teach beyond their own grade level to detect possible gaps and overlaps. Furthermore, the group generally felt that having the flexibility to also have teachers reflect on grade-adjacent levels instead of being limited to pre-defined grade spans (i.e., K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12) was appealing. For example, a second grade teacher would also complete reflections for first and third grade content, not kindergarten and first grade content (Proposal A) or just first grade content (Proposal B).
A slight modification was requested to Proposal C during the session, jut prior to survey completion. Instead of having teachers manually select one grade level to reflect on at a time, focus group members suggested having the adjacent-grade level content automatically populate in an un-labeled manner once the teacher selects his/her grade level. Additionally, several focus group members indicated verbally that having teachers just focus on their own grade level or labeling content according to grade level for data entry could lead to increased pressure to "select the right content" instead of honestly and accurately reflecting on what students had the opportunity to learn.
Overall, the information gathered during this focus group indicates a desire to pursue Proposal C or a modification of Proposal C as detailed above.