Wednesday, March 30, 2011

First of Two Updates to the I-CAT Complete

You may recall from my last blog post that there have been some delays in getting the Iowa Curriculum Alignment Toolkit (I-CAT) updated. Tonight I am pleased to announce that the first of two major updates to the I-CAT have been put in place.

Briefly, most of the structural updates needed for the I-CAT to accommodate the different structure of the Iowa Core content due to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in Literacy and Math have been put in place. However, you will not actually notice most of these updates until the content itself has been updated.

The main difference you will notice is on the screen just after you select a content area to reflect on, which starts with the phrase "
Please select the information you wish to work with..." The drop down menus are in a slightly different order than they were before. Furthermore, what used to be an open field to indicate which school year a teacher wants to reflect on has been changed to a drop down menu.

Other changes do appear now when generating reports using the View my Data and Compare Data tools. However, training is just starting to roll out for these tools, so most users will be unaffected by these changes as well.

Please note that all trained I-CAT facilitators have been provided with the documentation they need to support end users in using the I-CAT given these changes. Once the content is updated, I will post a more extensive description of all changes, as well as provide facilitators with more detailed documentation. I hope to get the content updated in the next two weeks.

Please check back here for more information about I-CAT updates. Thanks to everyone for your patience and dedication to doing quality alignment work.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Latest I-CAT Update Information

In my last blog, I provided some information about where things were with the Iowa Curriculum Alignment Toolkit (I-CAT). Briefly, with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards to become the "new content" for the Iowa Core, it became necessary to update the I-CAT to reflect these changes. Between these updates, as well as the omission of the updated version of Civic Literacy for 21st Century Skills when Social Studies was updated in October 2010, we were left needing to update all five subject areas of the Iowa Core to some extent.

While I was optimistic that we could institute the updates to the I-CAT within the next 3 or 4 days, it now looks like it will take a little longer. There are four reasons why the I-CAT is taking some time to be updated.

1. Structural Changes:
There are three big structural differences between the previous version of the Iowa Core and the current version that impact the I-CAT: (a) grade-level specific K-8 standards instead of spans; (b) in Literacy, the high school grade span has changed from 9-12 to 9-10 & 11-12; and (c) there are content-specific Literacy standards that need to be placed into Science, Social Studies, and 21st Century Skills. While we can make all of this work, it took some time to decide on solutions, and it also takes some time to program and test those solutions.

2. Measurement Precision Project: The current version of the Iowa Core sometimes has multiple concepts/skills embedded in a single standard. This can lead to over- and/or under-representing what is actually taught (i.e., the enacted curriculum). If we can accept that everything listed in the standards, unless noted as "an example," is something students are to know and be able to do, we therefore want to make sure the structure of the I-CAT allows teachers to reflect on whether or not they taught each of the concepts/skills listed in a standard.

To accomplish this goal, the standards need to undergo a process of being broken down into smaller statements when appropriate, without adding, subtracting, or substantively changing the content of the standards. We are in the middle of this process, which is called the Measurement Precision Project (MPP). Please note, this is only being done for the areas of Literacy and Mathematics. The work is being done by Iowa education professionals with in-depth knowledge and experience not only in their content areas in general, but with these Iowa Core documents in particular. Once the I-CAT is updated, a detailed description of the project and results will be posted at

3. Updated Report Features: The structural and content changes to the Iowa Core also call for some of the reporting features of the I-CAT to be updated as well. We are excited about these updates, as they will allow data to be generated and displayed in more targeted manner than previous versions of reports.

4. Bug Fixes: We have discovered a few bugs in the I-CAT over the past several months, and we will release fixes to those bugs with the other updates. For example, it was discovered that a teacher could enter data into the I-CAT without indicating a course name. While the data entered does get saved, there is no way to get back to the data once the teacher finishes data entry. While this problem can be avoided by just selecting a course to reflect on before starting data entry, it is still a loophole we want to close.

When the I-CAT is finished being updated, I will tweet it, and post it on this blog. So stay tuned, we are working diligently to improve the I-CAT. I appreciate your collective patience, and enthusiasm for alignment work. If you have any questions, post them in the comments to this blog entry, or tweet them to me.