Category Archives: HF215

The Long and Winding Road to the Smarter Balanced Assessments

The second funnel deadline for the Iowa Legislature is today and neither of the assessment bills (HF 446 or SF 429) will survive it. So despite the zealous advocacy of the Assessment Task Force, the State Board of Education, and the Education Coalition (Iowa Association of School Boards, School Administrators of Iowa, Iowa Area Education Agencies, Iowa State Education Association, Urban Education Network of Iowa, and Rural School Advocates of Iowa) and who knows who else, it appears that the Iowa Legislature will take no action regarding statewide assessments this session.

How did we get here: the executive branch loves SBAC, the legislative branch loves it not (apparently).

Governor Branstad, then State Board of Education President Rosie Hussey, and then DE Director Jason Glass signed off on making Iowa an SBAC governing state in June 2011. The letter requesting the change in status updated the SBAC MOU originally signed by Governor Chet Culver, interim DE Director Kevin Fangman, and Rosie Hussey in June 2010. The MOU contains the following language with regard to the Smarter Balanced Assessments: “The purpose of [the SBAC MOU] is to . . . (h) Bind each State in the Consortium to every statement and assurance made in the application . . . ” and “Each State that is a member of the Consortium in 2014-2015 also agrees to the following: . . . Fully implement statewide the Consortium summative assessment in grades 3-8 and high school for both mathematics and English language arts no later than the 2014-2015 school year, . . . .”

Thus, it would appear that the executive branch had committed Iowa to implementing the Smarter Balanced assessments during the 2014-2015 school year.

However, 2012 brought SF 2284, Division II of which fixed the Iowa Assessments as the statewide assessments for Iowa.  The state board was permitted to submit recommendations for modifying the assessment, but legislative action would be required to adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessments.  [SF 2284 is found in Chapter 1119 of the 2012 Acts and Joint Resolutions, which begins on page 434.  Division II of SF 2284 is on page 435.]

2013 brought further changes with HF 215, Division V of which allowed for a successor assessment administered by the same assessment provider (Iowa Testing Programs) and modified the assessment requirements as follows:  Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, districts will be required to administer assessments to all students enrolled in grades three through eleven.  The assessments shall be administered during the last quarter of the school year, must be aligned with the Iowa common core standards, must accurately describe student achievement and growth for accountability purposes, and must measure student progress toward college or career readiness. [HF 215 is found in Chapter 121 of the 2013 Acts and Joint Resolutions. Division V begins on page 13.]

HF 215 also directed the director of the DE to establish an assessment task force to review and make recommendations for a statewide assessment of student progress. The task force began working in October 2013.

Meanwhile, some Iowa schools participated in SBAC pilot tests in spring 2013 and SBAC field tests in spring 2014.

In July 2014, Governor Branstad and DE Director Brad Buck sent a joint letter to SBAC, stating in part:

How to best measure the academic performance of Iowa students is an important conversation under way in Iowa. The Iowa Assessment Taskforce established by the 2013 Iowa Legislature has been studying the state’s academic assessment needs, including past, present and future options for accountability. Taskforce recommendations are expected by Jan. 1, 2015.

To honor the work of the taskforce, Iowa will not sign a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as requested.

The Assessment Task Force submitted a report and recommendations, including a recommendation that the Smarter Balanced assessments be adopted as the statewide assessment of student progress in mathematics and reading, on December 31, 2014.

In February 2015, the State Board of Education endorsed the Assessment Task Force recommendation to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments.

Senate and House assessment bills (HF 446 and SF 429) were passed out of respective education committees earlier this session so that the assessment issue would survive the first funnel deadline. Meetings about the statewide assessment issue were held by the Senate Education Committee and the House Education Committee on March 18th and 25th.

And then, somewhat unexpectedly, though questions about the effect of a delay had been raised, legislators have taken no further action and the assessment bills, as noted above, are effectively dead for this session. One might assume that legislative support was insufficient to assure passage of a bill adopting the Smarter Balanced assessments at this time.

What happens now: your guess is as good as mine.

It is too soon to despair or rejoice (depending upon your preferred assessment outcome) as there may yet be a path to Smarter Balanced assessments in Iowa. (District IT staff may want to go ahead and despair the uncertainty and lack of additional funding for school technology infrastructure). Here are a few scenarios to consider:

One: After time to think, twist arms, or otherwise make sausage, legislators return in January 2016 and vote to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments–either for the 2016-2017 school year or with a delay to give districts more than a few months notice to get prepared for computer-based assessments.

Or two: The State Board of Education adopts the Smarter Balanced assessments through the administrative rule-making process–either in 2015, risking a legislative backlash that undoes the adoption of the Smarter Balanced assessments in January 2016, or after the 2016 session.

The (unsubstantiated) word is that there is a legal theory being floated that the State Board of Education or the DE has the authority to choose a new assessment if the Legislature fails to act.

I haven’t yet heard the details of the theory, so I won’t comment on the quality of it, but I do think there is an argument to be made that the Legislature has acted on this issue. The Legislature directed the State Board of Education to adopt rules to make the Iowa Assessments or a successor assessment administered by the same assessment provider (ITP) the statewide assessment of student progress on the core academic indicators of mathematics, reading, and science. The successor assessment that will be administered by the same assessment provider (the Next Generation Iowa Assessments) meets the minimum legal requirements that take effect for the 2016-2017 school year. No conflict, no further action by the Legislature needed.

Attendance Center Rankings: Coming Soon(ish) [updated]

Update: the web application showing student proficiency and college and career readiness growth (CCR growth) by school or by district is now available. The “more information” links aren’t working for me, but here’s an alternate link to FAQs and to the DE news update page.

Or at least, so says my Twitter feed:

Details are scarce at the DE website for now, though the January 2015 School Leader Update (page 6) indicates a website will be activated this month that will provide data on academic growth and student proficiency rates for Iowa public schools and districts. These are just two of the nine metrics required to be part of Iowa’s attendance center ranking system (Iowa ACR) by HF 215, the major education reform bill passed in 2013. A full report will not be released until October 2015, and the January 2015 SAI Report indicates that work to determine relative weightings of the criteria for purposes of calculating final scores is ongoing.

The DE published its Attendance Center Performance Ranking Legislative Report last July, listing and describing the following required nine metrics:

Student proficiency: the DE proposes using the NCLB proficiency calculations based on Iowa Assessments scores, currently in use for federal reporting, for this metric.

Student academic growth: the DE proposes to calculate a growth target for each student based on the previous year’s score that would allow the student to earn a college ready cut score in grade twelve. Lower scoring students would have larger growth targets (need to gain more points per year) to reach the college ready cut score; students already earning college ready cut scores would have a growth goal of “the annual increase in observed growth at the 50th percentile for the student’s current grade.” (page 11). This metric would be the percent of students in the school building meeting their individual growth targets. This would seem to disadvantage schools that produce at least one year’s growth or more for lower performing students if that growth nonetheless falls short of the, perhaps, very large annual gains required for the students to earn a college ready cut score in grade twelve. And it would also seem to fail to distinguish between schools with lower performing students making very little growth and schools with lower performing students making at least one year’s growth; both could have the same percent meeting the standard, but one arguably is doing a much better job than the other.

Note also that only 11% of grade eleven students are expected to earn Smarter Balanced college ready cut scores (Level 4) based on field test results. From page 11 of the report, “[T]he work group determined that the proposed model using the trajectory toward post-secondary success was rigorous, attainable, and meaningfully aligned with the State Board of Education’s goal that “Individuals will pursue post-secondary education to drive economic success.”” Considering that only 11% of grade eleven students are expected to earn Smarter Balanced college ready cut scores (Level 4) based on field test results, we may have to settle for the idea that two out of three ain’t bad (rigorous and meaningfully aligned but not realistically attainable). Or hope that the work group has rethought this one in the intervening months.

Graduation rates: the DE proposes to calculate four-year, five-year, six-year, and seven-year graduation rates, using the highest of the rates for ranking purposes.

Attendance rates: student days present divided by student days enrolled.

Parent involvement: the DE proposes to survey school staff to collect this information. If parents are not also surveyed, it is hard to see why all schools wouldn’t earn full points on this metric (hint: answer that you strongly agree with/regularly do all of these things). The report discusses surveying parents for a parent engagement metric and a parent satisfaction metric, but later the report recommends against adding optional metrics. We will have to wait and see on this one.

Employee turnover: number of licensed staff members (including administrators, counselors etc.) employed the previous year and still working in the building in the current year divided by the total number of licenses staff members working in the building in the current year.

Community activities and involvement: the work team was still wrestling with what might be included in this metric; we’ll have to wait and see.

Closing gap score: from page 20, the DE proposed a single, super subgroup “consisting of the students who are identified as one or more of IEP, ELL, and FRL will be evaluated.” “[T]he percent of the single supergroup in the general population will be compared to the percent of that supergroup’s representation among the proficient students.” Then, this gap score would be compared to the previous year’s score to determine if gaps are changing for the better or for the worse.

College-readiness rates: the DE proposed using Iowa Assessments scores linked to predicted ACT college-readiness cuts scores on the ACT of 22 in reading and 22 in mathematics. This would be changed depending upon changes to the accountability assessments.

The work team also considered optional indicators including post-graduation data, suspension and expulsions rates, level of student engagement, parent satisfaction, parent engagement, and staff working conditions. As of July 2014, the work team recommended not including these optional indicators in the Iowa ACR but planned to work with stakeholders to consider whether additional indicators should be included. On the upside, there doesn’t seem to any AP/PSEO participation metric in the rankings, at least not yet. On the downside, it isn’t at all clear how any of this will help schools improve, but at least those of us whose children attend schools at the top of the rankings will have something to celebrate on Facebook. At any rate, it will be interesting to see how much has changed since last July when the full reports are released to the public in October.

ATF: A Report and a Dissent

The Assessment Task Force report is out and is now available at the Assessment Task Force page of the Iowa DE website.

I was privileged to serve on this task force and to work with a group of knowledgeable and dedicated Iowans trying to make the best recommendations we could to the Iowa Legislature. It took a lot of time, by my count 74.5 hours of meetings, not including small group/subgroup work, but it was worth it as I found the whole experience to be very interesting. I plan to write a few posts about my task force experience now that our work, at least for now, is done.

Ultimately, I was not able to join in the task force’s recommendation that the Smarter Balanced assessments be adopted. The task force report includes a dissent written by yours truly which I have copied below to save you the trouble of turning to page twenty-two in the report to read it:

The Smarter Balanced Assessments are by far the costlier of the two assessment options in front of the Task Force. Whether the Smarter Balanced Assessments are worth the additional costs cannot be determined without quantifying all of the costs involved. This has not yet been done.

The information reviewed by the Task Force shows that the Smarter Balanced Assessments will take more than twice the amount of time to administer as the equivalent portion of the Next Generation Iowa Assessments and do not include a required science assessment. Science and social studies assessments can be added to the Next Generation Iowa Assessments for a total test administration time that is still 2 to 3.5 hours shorter than the Smarter Balanced Assessments alone.

The information reviewed by the Task Force shows that the Smarter Balanced Assessments will cost more per student, at an estimated $22.50 for the summative assessment only, and that those costs do not include a required science assessment. The Next Generation Iowa Assessments can include a science assessment for an estimated total cost to Iowa schools of $15 per student.

However, the Task Force lacks adequate information about the costs for school districts and the state to build and maintain the necessary school technology infrastructure to administer the Smarter Balanced Assessments. No comprehensive survey of the current state of school technology infrastructure has been conducted yet; consequently, these costs have not been quantified and are unknown at this time. The limited evidence in front of the Task Force suggests that these costs will be significant and ongoing. Even if the Legislature were to appropriate money for these costs, the appropriation would likely come at the cost of reduced supplemental state aid and thus would be in effect an unfunded mandate.

At the outset of our work, task force members agreed that our recommendations should be guided by what is best for Iowa’s children. Accountability testing is something we do for the adults, great instructional programming–including high quality art, music, world languages, and extra-curricular programs–is what we do for the children. Ultimately, it is best for Iowa’s children to obtain the accountability data required with the least impact on instructional programming possible. The Smarter Balanced Assessments divert more time and money from instruction than necessary for accountability purposes, and for these reasons, I respectfully dissent from the task force’s recommendation to adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessments. Based on the evidence currently in front of the Task Force, I would recommend adoption of the Next Generation Iowa Assessments instead.

Comments related to the task force, the report, or the recommendations are welcome here or on posts to follow in the next few days:

Smarter Balanced Assessments 29

The Assessment Task Force issued recommendations last week, including a recommendation that the state adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessments as the statewide assessment of student progress in mathematics and reading.

The Gazette, Radio Iowa, and Ed Week have covered the recommendations.

Today, Matt Townsley asks:

Before I take a stab at answering Townsley’s question, some background clarifications might be in order.

First, contrary to Ed Week’s coverage, the Assessment Task Force reviewed the Next Generation Iowa Assessments, in addition to the Smarter Balanced Assessments, not the current Iowa Assessments.

Second, Iowa schools are required to assess science as well as mathematics and reading. The Smarter Balanced Assessments do not include a science component. The Next Generation Iowa Assessments, like the Iowa Assessments, will offer a science and social studies component.

Third, the Smarter Balanced Assessments are expected to take more than twice as long as the Next Generation Iowa Assessments (excluding science and social studies):

–                    Smarter Balanced     NGIA (ELA/Math only)     NGIA (plus science/social studies)

grades 3-5           7 hours                      3 hours                                  5 hours

grades 6-8           7.5 hours                   3 hours                                  5 hours

grades 9-11         8.5 hours                   3 hours                                  5 hours

Which brings me to my first suggestion for possible reasons other than cost to reject the Smarter Balanced Assessments:

Time to Administer

The Washington Post published a guest column earlier this month (HT: McLeod) comparing the length of required assessments for New Jersey 4th graders to the length of the New Jersey bar exam. Spoiler alert: the New Jersey bar exam, at only eleven hours and fifteen minutes, is actually fifteen minutes shorter than the 4th grade exams.

I suppose Iowa can afford to more than double the amount of time spent testing mathematics and reading because our bar exam clocks in at twelve hours or so. And perhaps third grade students should get to work on developing the assessment stamina to be on track to acquire the career readiness to sit for the bar exam, but questions remain. Is data from Smarter Balanced Assessments so much better than NGIA to justify requiring students, some as young as eight years old, to sit for such lengthy assessments? (This question could take years to answer, assuming anyone even bothers to look for the answer.) Are the Smarter Balanced Assessments a better use of instructional time than other instructional programming?

In any case, if seven hours to eight-and-a-half hours doesn’t seem like too much testing, remember that it doesn’t include the required science assessment and, if your school decides to administer the practice exams, you can double those times to fourteen to seventeen hours.

Technology Readiness

Some of the news coverage hints at this issue, but the evidence suggests that Iowa is not ready for statewide online assessments. The Iowa field tests went well but, with only an eight percent participation rate and many schools only testing one or two grade levels, some in only one subject area, they could hardly be said to have put Iowa’s school technology infrastructure to the test.

In 2013, it was estimated that “a need exists for greater bandwidth in about one-third of Iowa school districts.” In addition, some 1:1 districts were already exceeding ICN bandwidth capacities. Remember that the Legislature did not pass the broadband bill and it is unclear whether any progress has been made.

It might also be worth considering Michigan’s experience with Smarter Balanced Assessments, recently reported in an Ed Week article on waivers of state requirements for online testing:

In Michigan, a report released earlier this year found that while nearly 80 percent of schools did meet the “minimum” technology-readiness standards put forward by Smarter Balanced—one of the two main consortia creating online assessments aligned to the common core—far fewer school systems met the consortium’s “recommended” specification.

And even the recommended standards represented a lower tech threshold than what state officials believed would be necessary, director of the state’s office of standards and assessment Vince Dean told Cavanagh in an interview following the report’s release.

Over the past two years, Michigan has spent more than $100 million to support district technology improvements and professional development efforts, including those surrounding the transition to online testing.

So, we don’t know with any certainty how close to or far from being ready for statewide online assessments we are and we are running short of time to prepare. If the Legislature takes action in the upcoming session (spring 2015), we would essentially have just over one year (to fall 2016) to prepare all Iowa schools for online assessments–assuming that we want all schools to have an equal opportunity to use the Smarter Balanced Assessments interim assessments throughout the 2016-2017 school year in preparation for online administration of the summative assessments in spring 2017.

Equity

If we can’t resolve the technology readiness issues, students across the state could have very different testing experiences, perhaps to the point that results can’t fairly be compared. Consider the following possibilities:

  • Some students must take a longer, non-adaptive, paper-and-pencil format of the assessment in the spring of 2017 while other students take the computer adaptive version.
  • Some students are bused to the community college or other locations and must sit for the assessments in one or two sessions while other students take the assessments in their own classroom or school computer lab in shorter sessions spread out over two weeks.
  • Some students experience slow loading times or interruptions of the test due to insufficient bandwidth while others students take the assessments without interruption.

How about some other possible inequities?

  • Some students experience cuts in art, music, world languages, and other instructional programming and/or larger class sizes to pay for the assessments and the technology required to support them while others students see no changes in instructional programming or class sizes.
  • Some students experience reductions in art, music, or recess to make time for technology instruction to prepare them for typing in constructed responses and otherwise navigating the assessment software while other students, with better access to technology outside of school, see no changes in instructional programming.

Priorities

Those last few possible inequities are in some sense really about priorities. There are some eager to see statewide online assessment force districts into 1:1 computing environments or at least offering much more technology in the classroom. However, not everyone agrees that this should be a priority or that more technology is the answer to the question “what is a good (or great) education?” See any number of articles about Steve Jobs not giving his own children iPads. Or see StepfordTO’s thoughtful blogpost The Debate About Digital Literacy: Moral Panics, Contradictions, and Assumptions. Here’s a taste (but please go read the whole thing):

My own anxiety as a parent has to do with what the anxious rhetoric surrounding digital literacy can lead us to do. And by us, I mean parents and schools and governments. One thing that it has led us to do is to spend a lot of money on technology for schools, even though the research to date has failed to show a significant impact (good or bad) on learning. I’m not opposed to technology in schools, but when the provincial government announces that it will be spending 150 million dollars to put iPads in classrooms, while it’s making cuts elsewhere in education, it gives me pause.

If seven and eight year olds are going to be pushed to learn how to type, not because it has any value to the seven or eight year olds, but simply to prepare them for the Smarter Balanced Assessments, count me out.

Ask me to choose between higher percentage of Supplemental State Aid or money to pay for the Smarter Balanced Assessments, I’ll pick the Supplemental State Aid to support the art, music, and other great instructional programming that makes for a great education.

Ask me to choose between long-needed air conditioning upgrades and building projects to finally retire portable classrooms in use for decades and technology for assessments, I’ll pick the air conditioning and the building projects.

Which I suppose brings us right back to cost as a reason for rejecting the Smarter Balanced Assessments, but in the end there’s no avoiding the choices the costs will force us to make.

Smarter Balanced Assessments 25

Is Iowa moving to Smarter Balanced Assessments?

The above search term brought someone to the blog today. The answer is maybe, but Iowa has not yet adopted the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

Here is a recap of where Iowa stands with regard to Smarter Balanced Assessments:

Governor Branstad, State Board of Education President Rosie Hussey, and DE Director Jason Glass signed off on making Iowa an SBAC governing state in June 2011. The letter requesting the change in status updated the SBAC MOU originally signed by Governor Chet Culver, interim DE Director Kevin Fangman, and Rosie Hussey in June 2010. The MOU contains the following language with regard to the Smarter Balanced Assessments: “The purpose of [the SBAC MOU] is to . . . (h) Bind each State in the Consortium to every statement and assurance made in the application . . . ” and “Each State that is a member of the Consortium in 2014-2015 also agrees to the following: . . . Fully implement statewide the Consortium summative assessment in grades 3-8 and high school for both mathematics and English language arts no later than the 2014-2015 school year, . . . .”

However, 2012 brought SF 2284, Division II of which fixed the Iowa Assessments as the statewide assessments for Iowa.  The state board may submit recommendations for modifying the assessment, but legislative action will be required to adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessments.  [SF2284 is found in Chapter 1119 of the 2012 Acts and Joint Resolutions, which begins on page 434.  Division II of SF2284 is on page 435.]

2013 brought further changes with HF 215, Division V of which modified the assessment requirements as follows:  Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, districts will be required to administer assessments to all students enrolled in grades three through eleven.  The assessments shall be administered during the last quarter of the school year, must be aligned with the Iowa common core standards, must accurately describe student achievement and growth for accountability purposes, and must measure student progress toward college or career readiness.

HF 215 also directed the director of the DE to establish an assessment task force to review and make recommendations for a statewide assessment of student progress.  The task force recommendations are due by January 1, 2015. The assessment task force meeting dates, agendas, notes, and membership are available at the DE website. Meetings of the task force are open to the public.

This session, HF 2141, a bill that would have required the director of the DE to submit a request for Iowa to exit the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, failed to advance out of subcommittee.

Caffeinated Thoughts reports that Rep. Jorgensen (R-Woodbury), chair of the House Education Committee, indicated that the Legislature will address whether or not to adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessments next session, after the assessment task force has submitted recommendations. Of course, as long as the Iowa Legislature is in session, it would still be possible to take action on the issue.

Meanwhile, the DE has moved forward with participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment field tests. The DE requested a field test flexibility waiver, which was approved in part in February.  The waiver was approved on the condition that the DE will implement eight assurances, including ensuring notification of parents whose children attend schools that will be participating in the field tests and that “pending action by the Iowa legislature,” the DE will administer the new assessments to all students in the grades required to be tested during the 2014-15 school year.

After a one-week delay, the Smarter Balanced Assessment field test is scheduled to begin March 25th.

On Facebook, Iowans for Local Control has the following list of Iowa school districts participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment field tests. Note that the Iowa DE does not appear to have released an official list, and Iowans for Local Control would like to be notified of any errors or omissions.

  • Alden CSD
  • Anthon-Oto CSD
  • Atlantic CSD
  • Bellevue CSD
  • Bettendorf CSD
  • Danville CSD
  • Davis County CSD
  • Denison CSD
  • Dike-New Hartford CSD
  • Essex CSD
  • Gilmore City-Bradgate CSD
  • Hampton-Dumont CSD
  • IKM-Manning CSD
  • Iowa Falls CSD
  • Le Mars CSD
  • Linn-Mar CSD
  • Lone Tree CSD
  • Maple Valley CSD
  • Morning Sun CSD
  • Muscatine CSD
  • North Mahaska CSD
  • Schleswig CSD
  • Sioux City CSD
  • Southeast Polk CSD
  • Starmont CSD
  • Tipton CSD
  • Tri-County CSD
  • Wapello CSD
  • Waterloo CSD

So that’s where we stand. The executive branch appears to moving forward with implementing the Smarter Balanced Assessments, but the Iowa Assessments remain the statewide assessments for accountability purposes until the Iowa Legislature takes action to change that.

The Assessment Task Force

The Assessment Task Force, tasked with reviewing and making recommendations for a statewide assessment of student progress, begins its work next Tuesday at 10 am.

Director Buck announced the names of the eighteen members of the task force today.

During the 2012 legislative session, the Legislature mandated the Iowa Assessments for state and federal accountability purposes.  During the 2013 legislative session, the Legislature opened the door for a successor assessment administered by Iowa Testing Programs to be allowed for accountability purposes.

The State Board of Education was directed to create administrative rules that specify for implementation by the 2016-17 school year a new statewide assessment of student progress in grades 3-11.  That new assessment must meet the following criteria:

  • Align with the Iowa Core

  • Accurately describe student achievement and growth for the purposes of accountability

  • Provide valid, reliable, and fair measures of student progress toward college or career readiness

  • Must have been piloted in Iowa schools

Currently, assessments are only required for grades four, eight, and eleven.

The task force will be meeting in Room B100 of the Grimes State Office Building. Meetings are open to the public and agendas and notes (minutes?) will be made available on the Assessment Task Force page of the DE website.

Recommendations are due by January 1, 2015, although the current meeting schedule indicates the task force work may be completed as early as August or September 2014.

Getting a Seat at the Table

Scott McLeod asked this weekend whether StudentsFirst deserves a seat at the policy table in Iowa. His blog post is a follow up on an interview he did with Mike Wiser for an article published in the Sioux City Journal about StudentsFirst’s move to take on a more active (more public?) role in shaping education policy in Iowa.

I find myself quibbling about the notion of “deserving” to participate, however, the post does raise interesting questions about how and why particular people find themselves with a seat at the table on education task forces–or committees at the district level–and whether it really matters anyway.

The Council on Educator Development was created by Division VI of HF215 [remember to click on the conference committee report version if you look up the legislation to get the language as it actually passed]. The council must have at least seventeen voting members who are to be appointed by the director of the Iowa Department of Education. Seventeen seats at the table were specifically reserved, so to speak, by the Legislature to represent particular groups or stakeholders as follows: eight educators who shall be subject to evaluation under whatever system is developed, and one each to represent the DE, the AEAs, ISEA, SAI, IASB, UEN, the largest approved practitioner preparation program in Iowa, an approved administrator program in Iowa, and parents of Iowa elementary or secondary students.

The Legislature did not specifically reserve a seat for StudentsFirst at the table, so in that sense, they certainly aren’t entitled to a seat at the table.

Presumably named organizations forward the name of their choice of representative to the director, otherwise, I surmise that it is a matter of knowing the right people to get selected for one of the other seats at the table.

It appears that Patty Link is plenty well-connected to ask for and get that seat at the table. Whether she actually represents Iowa parents (rather than Michelle Rhee/StudentsFirst) is a good question for public debate, although I am resistant to the implication from Tammy Wawro’s comment on McLeod’s post that parent representatives should (must?) be drawn from the ranks of PTO/PTA organizations.

McLeod lists a number of reasons we might not want StudentsFirst at the table, but I can’t help wonder whether it really matters.

I think the answer depends on whether the task force is going to engage in a relatively independent, thorough study and deliberation of the issues before arriving at recommendations or if it will only function as political theater of a sort, intended to provide the appearance of thorough study and deliberation while actually “building consensus” around recommendations that are largely decided upon before the task force or committee members were even identified and invited to the table.

After all, it clearly wouldn’t be hard for the director to identify people likely to be friendly toward DE desired recommendations and likely to be compliant with being managed toward that end. In which case, I can’t really get too excited about who is or isn’t chosen to serve as a rubber stamp.

However, if the task force will really be working towards an independent set of recommendations, I can see why some might not want Patty Link to have the opportunity to advocate for StudentsFirst’s agenda throughout the process.

If you are interested in following the work of any of the task forces created by SF 2284 (2012 legislation) or HF 215 (2013 legislation), the Iowa DE now has a task force page on the website with links for each of the task forces.

Have you ever sought appointment to a district or statewide committee, task force, or board? If you have served, what is your sense of how the committee, task force, or board functioned? If you are in charge of choosing members for district or statewide committees, task forces, or boards, how do you decide who to invite?