Category Archives: SF2284

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 [Bill did not advance out of subcommittee and was subsequently withdrawn at the request of Jorgensen (R-Woodbury), current chair of the House Education Committee.]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.

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.

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.

Smarter Balanced Assessments 23

The State Board Legislative agenda for 2014 makes more sense now that I’ve had a look at the Iowa’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Smarter Balanced Assessments Consortium courtesy of Shane Vander Hart at Iowans for Local Control.

From page 3 of the MOU (signed by the Director of the DE, President of the State Board of Education, and the Governor):

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.

It seems that SF2284 put the State Board and the DE in a bit of a jam, in that they no longer have the authority to change the statewide accountability assessment for 2014-2015 as agreed, that they would like the assessment task force and the Iowa Legislature to get them out of.

Assuming the Legislature takes no action to approve the implementation for 2014-2015, what happens then? Will Iowa be demoted from Governing State to Advisory State? Will Iowa be required to exit the Consortium?

In other SBAC news:

Ed Week reports that SBAC plans to charge device and operating system providers an annual fee to certify compatibility of the devices/operating systems with the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

Ed Week reports that SBAC will have four achievement levels, indicating the level of understanding of the math and English language arts content:

  • thorough
  • adequate
  • partial
  • minimal

SBAC is still working on setting cut-scores for each of the achievement levels and plans to embed items from NAEP and PISA in the spring 2014 field test.

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?

Smarter Balanced Assessments 20

Search terms indicate that there is interest in, or perhaps confusion about, when Iowa will adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

Iowa has not adopted the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

Division II of SF2284 (2012’s education reform bill) established the Iowa Assessments as the statewide assessments for Iowa.  The state board may submit recommendations for modifying the assessment, but legislative action is 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.]

Division V of HF215 (2013’s education reform bill) 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.

Language that would have required those assessments to be “developed by a consortium in which the state of Iowa is a participant” (i.e. Smarter Balanced Assessments) was removed by the conference committee.  Instead, the director of the DE was directed to establish an assessment task force to review and make recommendations for a statewide assessment of student progress.  The task force recommendations shall be submitted by January 1, 2015.

Smarter Balanced Assessments 9

Search terms indicate there is some interest in, or perhaps some confusion about, whether Smarter Balanced Assessments are required or have replaced the Iowa Assessments.

Director Glass confirms there are plans to pilot the Smarter Balanced Assessments in Iowa, however the Iowa Assessments continue to be the assessments required by the State of Iowa for accountability purposes.

Legislative action will be required to replace the Iowa Assessments with the Smarter Balanced Assessments for accountability purposes per SF2284.

See prior coverage on this blog here and here.