Category Archives: unfunded mandates

Update on Smarter Balanced Assessments in Iowa [updated]

In November 2015, the Iowa State Board of Education adopted rules [IAC 281–12.8(1)(h)] to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments as the statewide assessments for Iowa beginning with the 2016-17 school year. In January 2016, the Administrative Rules Review Committee, through a unanimous vote, put a session delay on the Smarter Balanced assessments rules. A session delay means that the new rules did not go into effect in January, and instead, if the Legislature takes no action, will go into effect at the adjournment of the legislative session.

However, the Iowa Legislature appears to be taking action. Earlier this week, the Iowa Senate passed a one year delay of implementation of new statewide assessments in the education appropriations bill (SF2323 Division I, Section 6). [Note: Division I, Sections 12 and 13 of this bill contain provisions to delay the 3rd grade reading retention and summer school requirements one year, to May 1, 2018.]

This bill, SF2323, is now awaiting action in the Iowa House, where an amendment (H-8257) has been filed by Rep. Vander Linden (R-Mahaska) that, in addition to the one year delay, would nullify the rules adopted by the State Board of Education to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments. Nullification, or the legislative veto, does not require the signature of the Governor.

I am guessing that prospects for a delay of implementation of the Smarter Balanced assessments are good. The Iowa Legislature has not appropriated funding for the Smarter Balanced assessments and none of the amendments currently on file change Division I, Section 6 of SF2323.

Prospects for passage of H-8257 nullifying the rules are less clear. However, it does appear that the Smarter Balanced assessments are lacking strong support in the Iowa Senate, where twenty-four Senators co-sponsored SF 2040, a bill that would have struck 256.7(21)(b)(2) and (3) from the Iowa Code, which are the subparagraphs that create additional requirements for the statewide assessments and the assessment task force.

Stay tuned.

Update: SF2323 was debated tonight. H-8257 was amended by H-8272. H-8272 would suspend the rules adopting the Smarter Balanced assessments [IAC 281–12.8(1)(h)] until July 1, 2017. The amendment to the amendment was adopted by voice vote, then the amendment, as amended, was adopted by a voice vote. SF2323 as amended the Iowa House tonight on a vote of 52-41 and is headed back to the Iowa Senate.

In case you missed it, the Assessment Task Force made recommendations for statewide science assessment in March. The full report (minus the introduction) can be found here and should be available on the Assessment Task Force page after the introduction has been added.

If you want more of the history of Smarter Balanced assessments in Iowa prior to November 2015, see The Long and Winding Road to the Smarter Balanced Assessments or other posts tagged SmarterBalanced on this blog.

Added: I’ve had a chance to review the Senate floor debate. The delay language was added by amendment S-5145 by Schoenjahn (D-Fayette) and passed on a 50-0 vote. A similar amendment, S-5144 by Bowman (D-Jackson), containing delay language plus rule nullification language, was withdrawn. SF2323 passed the Senate the first time on a 27-23 vote. The Senate adjourned today (Friday, April 22nd) without taking up SF2323 as amended and passed by the House.



ATF: Report and Recommendations on Science

The Assessment Task Force wrapped up our review of statewide science assessment options March 11th, adopting five additional recommendations:

  • ACT Aspire science assessment to be used in the short-term (no longer than the 2019-20 school year), and administered once in each of three grade spans (3-5, 6-8, and 9-12). [One dissenter–not me this time–wrote a dissent, which is included at the end of the rationale section. In short, an objection to using an assessment not aligned to current standards, even for the short-term.]
  • Science assessments to be administered in grades 5, 8, and 10.
  • State to appropriate funds to pay for the statewide science assessments.
  • The Task Force to meet annually to review science assessment options.
  • The DE to pursue additional options for accessing a statewide science assessment aligned with the Iowa Science Standards (NGSS performance expectations). [I was the sole dissenting vote on this recommendation, but did not write a dissent this time. This recommendation seems overly broad, lacking any useful guidance–and potentially very expensive.]

The recommendations for assessing science in only three grade levels and for a state appropriation will require legislative action. For those tracking costs, ACT Aspire provided estimated costs for the science assessment only (rather than the complete ACT Aspire) of $8.00 per student (computer-based administration) or $13.00 per student (paper-and-pencil) plus an additional $1.20 for student score reports.

The ACT Aspire science assessment was the only currently operational assessment submitted for Task Force review. ACT Aspire does not offer an assessment for grade 11, so it isn’t clear what science assessment would be used for that grade level if the Legislature fails to act. The ACT exam is one, obvious option, but that would be expensive to add on top of administering the Smarter Balanced assessments to grade 11 students.

The Task Force report was presented to the State Board of Education yesterday, and is now available on the Assessment Task Force page. The introduction to the Task Force report, which was part of the report when approved by the Task Force, was omitted. I am still waiting to hear back, but hope the DE will be publishing an amended version of the report with the Introduction soon.

Update: The report has been removed from the Task Force page and will be reposted with the Introduction.

SBAC Adoption: No Fiscal Impact

. . . to the state, that is, “but there is a fiscal impact to school districts by increasing expenditures an estimated $6.0 to $7.0 million.”

“[T]he total estimated cost for SBAC [for the 2016-2017 school year] is between $8.3 million and $9.3 million.” [Note that the DE provided just the low estimate number to the Legislature earlier this year.] Note that these cost estimates do not include the costs of science assessments, which are required by law but not included in the SBAC assessments, or the costs to districts for building and maintaining the technology infrastructure required to administer the SBAC assessments. These costs to districts are still unknown. The DE estimates districts may save some money by choosing to use SBAC interim and formative assessments in place of other district-selected assessments

But wait, there’s more. The intensive summer literacy program, which is part of the third grade retention law, also has no fiscal impact to the state, but, again, there is a fiscal impact for districts. The DE is estimating a first year cost to districts between $6.6 million and $9.9 million.

Before too long, all these millions are going to add up to real money for school districts. Question: will the benefits (if any) for students outweigh the costs?

ADDED: A few relevant links to The Gazette: