I have previously written about my concerns about whether task forces, boards, and commissions are operating in ways designed to obtain relatively independent, thorough, and fair study and deliberation of issues before recommendations are crafted or whether they are managed to build consensus around or buy-in for recommendations or decisions made ahead of time.
When the press only covers the recommendations–the results–of a task force, as it has in the case of the assessment task force, it isn’t necessarily easy to tell which sort of process was followed. Meeting notes are far from being transcripts and have not, in my opinion, adequately captured the quality, intensity, and extent of our discussions.*
Our perception that we were independent, thorough, and fair in our work is not an adequate substitute for the judgment of the public, for whom we work. If it were, open meetings and open records laws would be unnecessary as we could just assure you that we acted properly behind closed doors and just report out the results.
Here are some of the discussions and decisions that shaped the final recommendations that might have benefitted from public scrutiny:
- discussion of DE conflict of interest (Jan. 2015)
- decision not to review science assessments (Nov. 2014, Jan. 2015, Feb. 2015)
- decision to open a new RFI after no vendor followed through with providing information on Smarter Balanced assessments under the initial RFI (June 2015)
- decision to remove the combined ACT/ACT Aspire from further consideration (July 2015, Sept. 2015)
- deliberations (Nov. 2015, Dec. 2015)
How did we do with our process? Did we get these decisions right? Were our deliberations thorough and fair? Did we raise and discuss the right issues? Does our process matter to your confidence in our recommendations?
Do we need better coverage and attendance at meetings of state level policymaking groups?What can be done to encourage coverage, especially as newsrooms are being downsized? Is there a role for bloggers here or technology–like the broadcast of school board and city council meetings and live audio- and video-streaming of the Iowa House and Senate?
*Nor have they always been timely posted; as of today, meeting notes for some meetings as far back as March are not yet posted.