Category Archives: 87th GA

Smarter Balanced Assessments in Iowa Update

Since my last post on Smarter Balanced assessments, the two legislative funnel deadlines have passed and an assessment bill, SF 240, has survived.

SF 240, as amended and passed by the Iowa Senate, would strike subparagraphs (2) and (3) of Iowa Code 256.7(21)(b), which are the paragraphs creating new assessment requirements and authorizing the Assessment Task Force. It would also amend subparagraph (1) to allow the State Board of Education to approve a new assessment for the school year beginning July 1, 2018. It would also amend subparagraph (1) to change the required assessment grades to grades three through eleven for math and reading and grades five, eight and ten for science. The amended language also includes the requirement from subparagraph (2) that the statewide assessments be administered in the last quarter of the school year, but not the other requirements, which included alignment to the Iowa Core and valid, reliable, and fair measurement of student progress toward college or career readiness.

Some of the requirements from subparagraph (2) are included in section 3 of the bill, which outlines a request for proposal (RFP) process for a new assessment to be conducted by the Iowa Department of Education. Section 3 also outlines how the Department of Education must evaluate RFP responses.

The Legislative Services Agency has issued a fiscal note including a chart with estimated costs for the Smarter Balanced assessments, the Next Generation Iowa Assessments (with and without centralized scoring), and the ACT Aspire. A few things to note:

  • Districts are required to provide multiple measures (an additional assessment beyond the statewide assessment). The inclusion of multiple measures here helps to reduce the gap between the costs of the Smarter Balanced assessments and the other assessments.
  • The costs for the Next Generation Iowa Assessments and ACT Aspire already include a science assessment. Note that the cost for an additional science assessment exceeds the cost for the complete Next Generation Iowa Assessments.
  • I’m not certain if LSA is aware that ACT Aspire does not offer an exam for grade eleven students. If ACT Aspire were chosen, the ACT or another grade eleven assessment would be needed, the costs of which may not be accurately reflected here.

The Des Moines Register has published several articles recently about statewide assessments (links to the articles on the Press-Citizen website here, here, and here). In “Lawmakers take plan for statewide exam back to square one“, reporter Mackenzie Ryan describes the statewide assessments debate as “the slow-moving squabble over which test to use” and asserts that SF 240 could undo four years of work toward new statewide assessments. I would argue that SF 240 could undo almost seven years of work by the Department of Education to implement Smarter Balanced assessments in Iowa, though see Shane Vander Hart’s commentary on SF 240 at Truth in American Education (in short, don’t count Smarter Balanced assessments out just yet).

In a follow up article, State Board of Education member Mary Ellen Miller expressed frustration at the delays in implementing the Smarter Balanced assessments.

The Iowa Board of Education is so frustrated by the delay in adopting new state exams that at least one member called for ending the tests altogether.

Emphasizing her dissatisfaction, Mary Ellen Miller told the lieutenant governor Thursday that Iowa should “do something outrageous” and declare a moratorium on state testing. The move could save millions of dollars while nixing tests that are no longer relevant, she said.

“Political roadblocks” to implementation of the Smarter Balanced assessments were a foreseeable possible consequence of the decision of the State Board of Education to unilaterally move ahead with rules adopting the Smarter Balanced assessments after failing to convince the Iowa Legislature to take action.

Meanwhile, with the State Board having acted unilaterally to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments, the Department of Education Director Ryan Wise is now left to take great pains to assure that the RFP process will be fair to all vendors.

If passed into law, the Department of Education would seek test proposals. It would take steps to ensure that “people don’t point at the department (and say) ‘You were in the bag for X vendor from the beginning,'” said department director Ryan Wise.

“Our whole objective is to run a fair process,” Wise said, explaining that officials should expect it to be ‘heavily scrutinized.”

If SF 240 is passed without substantial amendment, I would expect RFP responses for ACT Aspire, the Next Generation Iowa Assessments, and Smarter Balanced assessments (with a proposed companion science assessment) to be submitted. See the Assessment Task Force’s evaluation of the math and English language arts portions of these exams here.

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Collective Bargaining

It’s been a doozy of a week for education, with Betsy DeVos confirmed as Secretary of Education on Tuesday and Governor Branstad signing SF 166, setting SSA at 1.11% (with only $40 million or $73 per student of new money), on Wednesday, and now moving on to bills to change collective bargaining for public employees in Iowa (Chapter 20).

Based on my Twitter feed, the collective bargaining bills are the hot topic at legislative forums this weekend (see Twitter #saveiaworkers, #ialegis, #iaedfuture). This tweet, apparently relaying a comment made by Rep. Rogers at one of today’s forums, caught my attention.

Comments like this are hard for the audience to verify if the alleged supporters aren’t speaking publicly, but, for what it is worth, we can check lobbyist registration information on the bills.

Chapter 20 bills are HSB84, now numbered as HF291, and SF213.

The Iowa Association of School Boards is registered as undecided on HSB84, HF291, and SF213 (click these links to see all lobbyist registrations on each bill). Despite being registered on 74 other bills, School Administrators of Iowa has not registered a position on any of these three bills. The Urban Education Network of Iowa and the Rural School Advocates of Iowa are also not registered on any of the Chapter 20 bills as of today.

Added: Sweeping changes predicted for public schools if collective bargaining bill passes (Press-Citizen)

Smaller but not (yet) SmarterBalanced Government

In May 2016, explaining his veto of Section 18 and Section 19, subsection 5 of SF2323,  Governor Branstad had this to say about the Smarter Balanced assessments:

I am unable to approve the items designated as Section 18, and Section 19, subsection 5, in their entirety. These items unduly delay Iowa’s transition to a new statewide academic assessment system. The Iowa Department of Education can best serve students by moving forward immediately to prepare for implementation of the new assessment system on July 1, 2017. School administrators and teachers are eager for a new assessment system that is closely aligned with Iowa’s high state academic standards. By providing better information about students’ academic progress, the new assessment system will improve instruction. A well-aligned assessment is a key step toward providing a globally competitive education.

Interestingly, Governor Branstad referenced neither statewide assessments nor state academic standards when he delivered his 2017 Condition of the State address to the Iowa Legislature earlier this week. In addition, Governor Branstad declined to fund the Department of Education’s request for $10 million for LEA assessments in FY 2018 in his proposed budget, though he has proposed $6.1 million for LEA assessment in FY 2019. Thus, the Smarter Balanced assessments remain an unfunded mandate for the upcoming school year.

Meanwhile, Senator Sinclair (R-Wayne), new chair of the Senate Education Committee has wasted no time in addressing statewide assessments. On Tuesday, she filed SSB 1001, a proposed Committee on Education bill that would strike Iowa Code 256.7(21)(b)(2) and (3), which are the subparagraphs changing the statewide assessment requirements and creating the Assessment Task Force. The subcommittee met earlier today, with at least IASB organizing to advocate for aligned assessments–and presumably against the proposed bill.

As of today, the Iowa Association of School Boards, Rural School Advocates of Iowa, Urban Education Network of Iowa, and School Administrators of Iowa are registered against SSB 1001. Also registered against this bill is Reaching Higher Iowa (see here for Board of Directors and here for corporate sponsors).

The Iowa Catholic Conference, Professional Educators of Iowa, and ACT are registered for this bill.

Registered as undecided on the bill are Advocacy Strategies, the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund, the Iowa Department of Education, the Area Education Agencies of Iowa, the Board of Regents, the Iowa State Education Association, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and the Iowa Chamber Alliance.

Stay tuned. It could be an interesting legislative session for assessment.

Added (Rogers is the new chair of the House Education Committee):

Added: KCRG is reporting tonight that the Smarter Balanced assessments are officially on hold:

The state had planned to launch the Smarter Balanced assessments for the 2017-18 school year. Department of Education spokesperson Staci Hupp confirmed the department has been told to put that work on hold so the legislature can review options for assessments.

Added: Iowa House Republican Caucus Newsletter coverage of the Governor’s decision to put the Smarter Balanced Assessments on hold.

SSA Reference Numbers FY2018

I occasionally find myself trying to find dollar figures for SSA, as SSA is frequently reported in percentages that can’t easily be compared to other budget item spending.

This year, Governor Branstad referenced specific dollar figures in his Condition of the State address [$78.8 million for FY2018 and $63.5 million for FY2019 from the actual speech, which are slightly higher than numbers in the speech as prepared].

For future reference, here are dollar figures for various SSA percentages for FY 2018 from the Legislative Services Agency.

These numbers are complicated by the fact that the Teacher Leadership program grant has ended and the money for the third year of the grants has rolled over to the regular education funding streams. The teacher leadership money is $54 million and accounts for most of the reason the numbers listed at each percent of growth are so much higher for FY2018 than for FY2019. Governor Branstad’s numbers don’t match the LSA numbers for 2% growth, in part, because he elected to exclude the teacher leadership money from the “new money” proposed in his budget. However, legislative discussions of percent growth will be based upon the numbers provided by the LSA, which must account for those teacher leadership dollars as “new” because they are new to this particular funding stream.

  • 0.0%                –$62.2 million
  • 0.5%                –$81.0 million
  • 1.0%                –$100.0 million
  • 1.5%                –$119.2 million
  • Gov. proposal—$141.0 million [LSA puts this at an increase of $132 per student for a total of $6,723 per student for the 2017-18 school year]
  • 2.0%                –$141.4 million
  • 2.5%               –$158.7 million
  • 3.0%               –$177.8 million
  • 3.5%               –$197.5 million
  • 4.0%               –$217.8 million

2017 Iowa House Ed Committee Assignments

House Education Committee

There are nine new members on the House Education Committee for 2017, six of whom will be serving their first terms in the Iowa House (new members to the committee marked by * or **, if starting first term).

  • Rogers* (R-Black Hawk), Chair
  • Forristall (R-Pottawattamie), Vice Chair
  • Steckman (D-Cerro Gordo), Ranking Member
  • Breckenridge** (D-Jasper)
  • Brown-Powers (D-Black Hawk)
  • Carlin** (R-Woodbury)
  • Dolecheck (R-Ringgold)
  • Fry (R-Clarke)
  • Gaines (D-Polk)
  • Gassman (R-Winnebago)
  • Hager** (R-Clayton)
  • Hanson (D-Jefferson)
  • Hanusa (R-Pottawattamie)
  • Jones* (R-Clay)
  • Koester (R-Polk)
  • Mascher (D-Johnson)
  • Mommsen* (R-Clinton)
  • Moore, T. (R-Cass)
  • Nielsen** (D-Johnson)
  • Salmon (R-Black Hawk)
  • Smith, R.** (D-Black hawk)
  • Staed (D-Linn)
  • Steckman (D-Cerro Gordo)
  • Wheeler** (R-Sioux)

The 2017 legislative session opens January 9, 2017. The first funnel deadline is currently scheduled for Friday, March 3rd. The second funnel deadline is currently scheduled for Friday, March 31st.

New Leadership for the House Ed Committee

The Speaker of the Iowa House released the list of chairs and vice-chairs of House committees today.

The House Education Committee will have new leadership, with Walt Rogers (R-Black Hawk) to serve as chair, with Greg Forristall (R-Pottawattamie) to serve as vice-chair.

Rogers is an interesting choice. The 87th General Assembly will be Rogers’ fourth term in the Iowa House, only one of which–the 85th General Assembly–included an assignment to the House Education Committee. Bills previously co-sponsored by Rogers relating to standards and assessment include:

  • HF 2140 [85th GA] which would have renamed the Iowa statewide academic standards as “Iowa content standards”(removing “common core” designations, among others) and made the statewide academic standards voluntary. [Bill did not advance out of subcommittee and was subsequently withdrawn at the request of Jorgensen (R-Woodbury), current chair of the House Education Committee.]
  • HF 2141 [85th GA] which would have struck Iowa Code 256.7(21)(b)(2) and required the Director of the Iowa Department of Education to take action to exit the Smarter Balanced Assessments Consortium. [Died in subcommittee.]
  • HF 2053 [86th GA] which would have prohibited the State Board of Education from adopting rules to adopt a statewide assessment other than the Iowa Assessments without legislative approval. [Died in subcommittee.]
  • HF 2054 [86th GA] which would have prohibited the State Board of Education from adopting the Next Generation Science Standards and would have required legislative approval of proposed changes from the Iowa Core science standards in use during the 2014-15 school year. [Died in subcommittee.]
  • HF 2290 [86th GA] which would have delayed the implementation of new assessment requirements by one year. [Died in subcommittee, but the one-year delay became part of SF 2323. The Governor signed the delay, but vetoed the portions of SF 2323 that would have suspended the rule adopted by the State Board of Education to adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessments.]

The 87th General Assembly will be Forristall’s sixth term in the Iowa House. Forristall has served on the House Education Committee during all of his tenure in the Iowa House. Forristall served as Chair of the House Education Committee during the 84th General Assembly which passed SF 2284, fixing the Iowa Assessments as the statewide assessments for Iowa.