Category Archives: the press

SBAC Adoption: A Few Links

It’s old news by now that the State Board of Education adopted rules to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments as the accountability assessments for Iowa.

News Coverage:

From Diane Ravitch: Iowa Goes Backward

Rules as proposed and rules as adopted. Note that the rules as adopted show an effective date of January 13, 2016. It’s not clear why this date was chosen, but apparently the DE is still looking at spring 2017 as the first administration of the Smarter Balanced assessments in Iowa.

Here’s the summary of the comments on the proposed rules provided to the State Board of Education:

A public hearing on the revisions to Chapter 12 was held on November 3, 2015. Seventeen persons attended the public hearing, and nine spoke at the hearing. Of those persons speaking, six supported the adoption of this rule, and three opposed its adoption.

Public comments were allowed until 4:30 p.m. on November 3, 2015. Twenty written public comments were received regarding this rule. Of those written comments, 13 supported the adoption of this rule, and six opposed its adoption. One individual expressed some concerns about the assessment developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, but did not articulate opposition to the Noticed rule.

In many cases, individuals spoke or wrote on their own behalf. In many other cases, individuals spoke or wrote on behalf of an organization. Those organizations formally expressing support for the adoption of this rule include the following: The School Administrators of Iowa; the Iowa Association of School Boards; the Urban Education Network of Iowa; the Rural School Advocates of Iowa; Reaching Higher Iowa; the Cedar Rapids Community School District; and the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. The only organization expressing opposition to adoption during the public comment period was the Iowa City Community School District.

Did you notice that the comment summary focused on numbers and not at all on the substance of comments in either opposition–or support, for that matter–of the proposed rules?

Guidance to districts from the DE: Assessment: Frequently Asked Questions and Assessment Talking Points.


ATF: Process Matters

I have previously written about my concerns about whether task forces, boards, and commissions are operating in ways designed to obtain relatively independent, thorough, and fair study and deliberation of issues before recommendations are crafted or whether they are managed to build consensus around or buy-in for recommendations or decisions made ahead of time.

When the press only covers the recommendations–the results–of a task force, as it has in the case of the assessment task force, it isn’t necessarily easy to tell which sort of process was followed. Meeting notes are far from being transcripts and have not, in my opinion, adequately captured the quality, intensity, and extent of our discussions.*

Our perception that we were independent, thorough, and fair in our work is not an adequate substitute for the judgment of the public, for whom we work. If it were, open meetings and open records laws would be unnecessary as we could just assure you that we acted properly behind closed doors and just report out the results.

Here are some of the discussions and decisions that shaped the final recommendations that might have benefitted from public scrutiny:

  • discussion of DE conflict of interest (Jan. 2015)
  • decision not to review science assessments (Nov. 2014, Jan. 2015, Feb. 2015)
  • decision to open a new RFI after no vendor followed through with providing information on Smarter Balanced assessments under the initial RFI (June 2015)
  • decision to remove the combined ACT/ACT Aspire from further consideration (July 2015, Sept. 2015)
  • deliberations (Nov. 2015, Dec. 2015)

How did we do with our process? Did we get these decisions right? Were our deliberations thorough and fair? Did we raise and discuss the right issues? Does our process matter to your confidence in our recommendations?

Do we need better coverage and attendance at meetings of state level policymaking groups?What can be done to encourage coverage, especially as newsrooms are being downsized? Is there a role for bloggers here or technology–like the broadcast of school board and city council meetings and live audio- and video-streaming of the Iowa House and Senate?

*Nor have they always been timely posted; as of today, meeting notes for some meetings as far back as March are not yet posted.