Category Archives: legislators

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.

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.

Implications of an Assessment Delay [updated]

The big assessment news yesterday is that the Iowa Legislature has finally taken action on statewide assessment through SF2323 (education appropriations bill). Whether or not the Senate concurs with the House amendment to suspend the rules adopted by the State Board of Education, both houses have agreed to language that would delay new assessments by one year, to the school year beginning July 1, 2017 (instead of the school year beginning July 1, 2016).

The most obvious question is what’s the test for the 2016-17 school year, but the subparagraph contains a number of other assessment changes that will be delayed as well (assuming no veto by the Governor).

Here’s the relevant portion of current Iowa Code section 256.7(21):

b. A set of core academic indicators in mathematics and reading in grades four, eight, and eleven, a set of core academic indicators in science in grades eight and eleven, and another set of core indicators that includes but is not limited to graduation rate, postsecondary education, and successful employment in Iowa.

(1) Annually, the department shall report state data for each indicator in the condition of education report. Rules adopted pursuant to this subsection shall specify that the approved district-wide assessment of student progress administered for purposes of the core academic indicators shall be the assessment utilized by school districts statewide in the school year beginning July 1, 2011, or a successor assessment administered by the same assessment provider.

(2) Notwithstanding subparagraph (1), for the school year beginning July 1, 2016, and each succeeding school year, the rules shall provide that all students enrolled in school districts in grades three through eleven shall be administered an assessment during the last quarter of the school year that at a minimum assesses the core academic indicators identified in this paragraph “b”; is aligned with the Iowa common core standards in both content and rigor; accurately describes student achievement and growth for purposes of the school, the school district, and state accountability systems; and provides valid, reliable, and fair measures of student progress toward college or career readiness.

The delay will also delay a change in state law requirements to test math and reading in grades 3-11 instead of grades 4, 8, and 11 (note federal law requires testing in grades 3-8 and 11).

It will also delay a change in state law requirements to test science in grades 3-11, instead of grades 8 and 11 (note federal law requires testing at least once in each of three grade spans).

It will also delay the requirement for statewide assessments to be administered in last quarter of the school year. And it will delay the additional alignment requirements.

Although it has received little attention, the Assessment Task Force made recommendations last month for ACT Aspire science to be used as the statewide science assessment starting in 2016-17, in grades 5, 8, and 10. [Smarter Balanced assessments do not include a science assessment.] These recommendations seem to be rendered, at least temporarily, obsolete by the delay, which should leave us assessing under the requirements of subparagraph (1) which references, in a roundabout way, the Iowa Assessments or successor assessment by the Iowa Testing Programs.

So, again assuming no veto, what’s the statewide assessment for the 2016-17 school year? It probably depends upon whether the Iowa Assessments are still an option (if anyone knows the answer, please share). My guess is, if the Iowa Assessments are an option, they would be the preferred option for a number of reasons, for example, relatively low costs and schools already know how to administer the tests and interpret the results.

If not, it would seem that the Next Generation of Iowa Assessments would be the only option that satisfies subparagraph (1). Question: if the Next Generation Iowa Assessments are administered statewide in the 2016-17 school year, how does that affect political support for administering the Smarter Balanced assessments/ACT Aspire science assessments in 2017-18?

Update: Matt Townsley shared with me an from Iowa Test Programs dated April 14th, confirming that the Iowa Assessments will be available for the 2016-17 school year:

Iowa Testing Programs (ITP) will continue to offer the Iowa Assessments in the 2016-17 school year.  We plan to support fall, midyear and spring testing and to maintain the current price of $4.25/student if schools opt to partner with ITP.   This price includes paper-based assessments in reading, mathematics, science, English, social studies, computation and other skills-based areas.  Online testing in all areas also remains an option.

2016 Education Committee Assignments

House Education Committee

There is one change in House Education Committee membership. Tom Moore (R-Cass) has replaced Norlin Mommsen (R-Clinton). Tom Moore won a special election in December to fill the seat formerly held by Jack Drake.

  • Jorgensen (R-Woodbury), Chair
  • Gassman (R-Winnebago), Vice Chair
  • Ruff (D-Clayton), Ranking Member
  • Abdul-Samad (D-Polk)
  • Brown-Powers (D-Black Hawk)
  • Byrnes (R-Mitchell)
  • Cohoon (D-Des Moines)
  • Dolecheck (R-Ringgold)
  • Forristall (R-Pottawattamie)
  • Fry (R-Clarke)
  • Gaines (D-Polk)
  • Hanson (D-Jefferson)
  • Hanusa (R-Pottawattamie)
  • Highfill (R-Polk)
  • Koester (R-Polk)
  • Mascher (D-Johnson)
  • Moore, T. (R-Cass)
  • Salmon (R-Black Hawk)
  • Sieck (R-Mills)
  • Staed (D-Linn)
  • Stanerson (R-Linn)
  • Steckman (D-Cerro Gordo)
  • Winckler (D-Scott)

Iowa Senate

Senate Education Committee

There have been no changes in Senate Education Committee membership.

  • Quirmbach (D-Story), Chair
  • Schoenjahn (D-Fayette), Vice Chair
  • Sinclair (R-Wayne), Ranking Member
  • Behn (R-Boone)
  • Bowman (D-Jackson)
  • Dvorsky (D-Johnson)
  • Hart (D-Clinton)
  • Hogg (D-Linn)
  • Johnson (R-Osceola)
  • Kinney (D-Johnson)
  • Kraayenbrink (R-Webster)
  • Mathis (D-Linn)
  • Schultz (R-Crawford)
  • Wilhelm (D-Howard)
  • Zaun (R-Polk)

Update on Rules to Adopt SBAC in Iowa [updated]

In November 2015, the State Board of Education adopted rules to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments as the statewide assessment for Iowa beginning with the 2016-2017 school year. Today the Administrative Rules Review Committee apparently put a session delay on implementation of those rules [ARC 2312C]. ADDED: Find the minutes of the discussion here.

A session delay is one of the powers the Administrative Rules Review Committee may exercise over agency rulemaking:

The session delay. The ARRC may delay the effective date of a rule until the adjournment of the next session of the General Assembly. The committee refers the delayed rule to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. The rule is then forwarded to the appropriate standing committee for study and possible legislative action {§17A.8(10)}.

This means that the new rules will not be effective January 13, 2016. What action the Legislature will take, if any, to rescind or block these rules remains to be seen as Rep. Jorgensen, chair of the House Education Committee, appears to be supportive of the Smarter Balanced assessments. Still, this is an interesting turn of events.

Also of interest, given that the Governor’s office has been supportive of the Smarter Balanced assessments, is another power of the Iowa Legislature:

The legislative veto. Under the Iowa Constitution the General Assembly has an independent power to rescind any administrative rule The process known as nullification is identical to the enactment of a bill, requiring an absolute majority vote in each chamber, except that it does not require the signature of the Governor (Iowa Constitution, Art. III, section 40).

Update: I hear the vote was 10-0. Members of the Administrative Rules Review Committee are:

  • Rep. Pettengill, Chair (R-Benton)
  • Sen. Horn, Vice Chair (D-Linn)
  • Sen. Chelgren (R-Wapello)
  • Sen. Costello (R-Mills)
  • Sen. Courtney (D-Des Moines)
  • Sen. Jochum [President of the Iowa Senate](D-Dubuque)
  • Rep. Heddens (D-Story)
  • Rep. Jones (R-Clay)
  • Rep. Olson (D-Polk)
  • Rep. Vander Linden (R-Mahaska)

Questionable

A recent Iowa House Republican Newsletter has an update on state board action on science standards and statewide assessments: [The next three paragraphs are quoted directly from the newsletter (page 5), but I haven’t indented the whole thing, so that I can preserve the indented quote as it appears in the newsletter.]

“The authority for the State Board to determine Iowa’s next assessment without the legislature weighing in is still questionable. Iowa Code 256.7, which outlines the duties of the State Board, requires rules in sub-section 21 to implement a new assessment for the 2016/17 school year. This section also establishes the task force meant to make recommendations for the new assessment. The final language in the subsection states:

“The state board shall submit to the general assembly recommendations the state board deems appropriate for modifications of assessments of student progress . . .”

Whether the charge to the State Board in this last bit of language is to seek legisla-tive approval or merely to notify the legislature, the Department of Education has de-termined it is only for notification. As such, they have moved ahead with the develop-ment of rules.”

So the State Board of Education Met . . .

. . . and I took a stab at live-tweeting it. I had fun, but I’m now convinced that live-tweeting is at least a two person job as it was hard–for me anyway–to try to take extensive notes plus compose tweets plus keep up with my Twitter feed.

In case you missed the live-tweeting, I’ve put together a Storify version of it here.

For future reference, I see that the DE was using the hashtag #iastatebd yesterday on Twitter.

It’s old news at this point, but the Iowa State Board of Education, by unanimous vote, adopted the Next Generation Science Standards as presented in the Science Standards Review Team Report. See news coverage herehere, and here. The State Board also, by unanimous vote, directed the DE to draft rules implementing the Assessment Task Force’s recommendation number one (adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessments) for the 2016-17 school year and to reconvene the Assessment Task Force to review science assessments. See news coverage here and here.

On the drive home, a few things struck me about the State Board discussion around assessment.

First, that individual state board members publicly acknowledged that the costs of the Smarter Balanced assessments for districts would be more (not the same or less). Of course, that didn’t stop them from voting to move forward with adopting the assessments, as at least two of the board members opined that it would be easy for either districts or the Legislature to find the money. Miller suggested that people write or talk to legislators.

Perhaps you have just slapped your forehead and thought–as I did–“I wish I had thought of talking or writing to legislators about the need for more school funding! I’ll have to give that a try. No doubt it will be very effective, when we finally do it.”

Or maybe you were just wondering if state board members follow the news or any social media accounts. At all.

Second, it occurred to me that the state board members did not raise the issue of technology readiness for statewide online assessment as part of the discussion yesterday, nor did they discuss the experiences other states had administering the Smarter Balanced assessments this spring. Based on a non-discussion, it is hard to know if they aren’t following national news or are otherwise unaware of these issues, or if they feel that these issues have been adequately covered in other meetings or, perhaps, by the Assessment Task Force.

Which brings me to a third thought, as I considered this Barry Garelick tweet (referencing science standards adoption) again this afternoon:

And that thought, or question, really, is whether the use of task forces and review teams, whatever their merits might be (and I do think they may have some), removes too much of the deliberative process from the public eye.

I didn’t stick around for the agenda item on a public school choir singing religious songs, but interested readers can find coverage of State Board action on that item here and here.

Thoughts on the actions taken by the state board? Or on the processes in place for making decisions about public education on behalf of the citizens of Iowa? Are the decisions being made good ones, sufficiently transparent, and being made by the right people?