ICCSD 2017 School Election Preview

The next regular school election will be held on Tuesday, September 12th. ICCSD expects to have three school board seats up for election, which are the ones currently held by Directors Brian Kirschling, Chris Liebig, and Chris Lynch. There will also be a general obligation bond (GO bond) measure on the ballot.

Candidates.

The candidate filing dates will be Monday, July 10th through Thursday, August 3rd.

At least two prospective candidates have already filed paperwork with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board: J.P. Claussen and Ruthina Malone. Added: Press-Citizen story with comments from Claussen and Malone.

Others considering whether to run may be interested in the Iowa Secretary of State’s Candidate’s Guide to the School Election and the following videos from the Iowa Association of School Boards:

Videos from 2015 ICCSD candidate forums can be found here.

Added: The Johnson County Auditor now has a September 12, 2017 School Election page with signature requirements, and important dates and links.

GO Bond.

Proposed language for the GO Bond was presented at the March 28th board work session. At the work session, it was noted that the reference to West High School there should have been a reference to Tate High School, which I have shown corrected below [updated, per Director Roesler].

Shall the Board of Directors of the Iowa City Community School District in the County of Johnson, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $191,525,000 to provide funds to construct, build, furnish, and equip a new elementary building and improve the site; to construct, improve, furnish and equip athletic facilities at Liberty High School; and to construct additions to and/or remodel, repair, improve, furnish and equip the following school buildings: Alexander, Borlaug, Garner, Horn, Kirkwood, Lemme, Lincoln, Mann, Shimek, Wickham and Wood Elementary buildings, North Central, Northwest, and South East Junior High buildings, and City, Liberty, Tate, and West High School buildings?

Information about the GO Bond and the district facilities master plan can be found on the district website here.

One Community – One Bond, a local ballot issue committee formed to advocate for the passage of the GO bond, has filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

Updated: One Community – One Bond has a Facebook page, including a list of initial supporters (click “see more under” Story if you don’t see the list). [Updated: One Community-One Bond has removed the list of initial supporters from their about page.] One Community – One Bond has a placeholder website (no content yet) at http://passthebond.com/ and is on Twitter as @passthebond.

Curriculum and Instruction

If you have been paying attention to the ICCSD school board, it should not be news that the district has a disappointingly large and persistent achievement gap. We have said we want to see improvements in math, and reading (and presumably science) proficiency. So we have talked about buses and demographically balanced schools through school attendance boundary changes. We have talked about implicit bias training and weighted resource allocation models and preschool and class sizes and the 1:1 Chromebook program and more.

What we are not talking about–at least not publicly, as a community–is curriculum and instruction. I’m pretty sure, for instance, that pest management issues have had more airtime at regular school board meetings than the district plan to implement the Next Generation Science Standards.

So why discuss curriculum and instruction? Besides that if we want better reading results, for example, talking about reading instruction seems the obvious place to start, consider this from an article on the ICCSD achievement gap in The Daily Iowan:

School District Director of Curriculum Diane Schumacher said the achievement gap, which has continued over the past five years, may be attributed to a lack of opportunity, parental involvement, or the English language barrier for Latino students.

“We see the achievement gap with students who are coming from homes that maybe don’t have the same opportunities for educational experiences that some of our other students might,” Schumacher said. “Homes that wouldn’t be able to have their kids going to summer camp, getting outside tutoring, and maybe even some that wouldn’t have their kids accessing pre-school.”

In other words, this seems to be an acknowledgement that district curriculum and instructional practices perpetuate out-of-school social inequities inside of our schools.

In the meantime, at several recent work sessions, we can start to see the opportunity costs* of talking about everything except curriculum and instruction. Embedded below is audio from a board work session in February, cued up to an exchange about the district 1:1 device program set to roll out next school year, which is costing approximately $1.5 million to start for technology upgrades and device purchases. Director Hemingway asks a question about whether we can expect a measurable increase in student achievement.

The answer is no. Administrators can go no further than student engagement may be heightened, attendance may go up, and students need to be able to use technology in the 21st century workplace, because research does not support the conclusion that achievement will increase as a result of the 1:1 Chromebook program.

At an education committee meeting the following week, administrators presented the student achievement action plan:

Student Achievement Action Plan 11-21-16

During the discussion, Director DeLoach asks questions about how we will know the plan is working or whether we will see the same results we already have.

Administrators say they can’t point to anything on the list that will generate particular test score improvements and even that they don’t expect to see movement on achievement data. Maybe it is just me, but it seems like a big problem that our student achievement plan ultimately seems most squarely aimed at improving school climate. If the student achievement plan is really mostly a school climate improvement plan, then we  may still need a student achievement plan.

Interestingly, the very first item on the student achievement plan list, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Tier 1, should be driving a public discussion about curriculum and instruction. From the Iowa Department of Education website:

The Iowa MTSS framework is made up of five components.

  1. Evidence-based curriculum and instruction provided at the universal level.
  2. Universal screening of all students.
  3. Evidence-based, instructional interventions at the targeted and intensive levels shall be provided to each student who needs them.
  4. Progress monitoring for learners below expectations.
  5. Data-based decision making throughout the system.

The idea is to support student achievement by starting with improvements in classroom curriculum and instruction (universal level) so that fewer children will require instructional interventions. [Improvements here are an opportunity to reduce the need for and importance of outside tutoring, and thus, improve equity in our educational programs.] So, for example, a school (or district) might adopt explicit instruction in synthetic phonics as part of the universal reading curriculum so that fewer children struggle with learning how to read. One would then expect to see reading proficiency rates increase. (Questions: are we making data-based decisions about improving student achievement if we focus on doing things that do not result in measurable, positive changes in achievement? Are we really trying to improve student achievement if we are focused on doing things that we don’t even expect will result in measurable improvements in student achievement data?)

Is the district already providing evidence-based curriculum and instruction at the universal level? We don’t have much evidence to determine that they are, with so little public discussion of curriculum and instruction. In the next post, we will try to answer this question by taking a look at Tom Bennett’s book Teacher Proof and Daisy Christodoulou’s book Seven Myths about Education.

*The opportunity costs being that we have fewer resources (time, money, effort) to devote to improving curriculum and instruction in ways that would increase student achievement. And further, that the need to use the Chromebooks and other technology purchased might become a more important driving force in instructional material selection than student achievement.

Collective Bargaining

It’s been a doozy of a week for education, with Betsy DeVos confirmed as Secretary of Education on Tuesday and Governor Branstad signing SF 166, setting SSA at 1.11% (with only $40 million or $73 per student of new money), on Wednesday, and now moving on to bills to change collective bargaining for public employees in Iowa (Chapter 20).

Based on my Twitter feed, the collective bargaining bills are the hot topic at legislative forums this weekend (see Twitter #saveiaworkers, #ialegis, #iaedfuture). This tweet, apparently relaying a comment made by Rep. Rogers at one of today’s forums, caught my attention.

Comments like this are hard for the audience to verify if the alleged supporters aren’t speaking publicly, but, for what it is worth, we can check lobbyist registration information on the bills.

Chapter 20 bills are HSB84, now numbered as HF291, and SF213.

The Iowa Association of School Boards is registered as undecided on HSB84, HF291, and SF213 (click these links to see all lobbyist registrations on each bill). Despite being registered on 74 other bills, School Administrators of Iowa has not registered a position on any of these three bills. The Urban Education Network of Iowa and the Rural School Advocates of Iowa are also not registered on any of the Chapter 20 bills as of today.

Added: Sweeping changes predicted for public schools if collective bargaining bill passes (Press-Citizen)

Dissent Doesn’t Ruin Everything

Earlier this week, the ICCSD school board approved moving ahead with putting an approximately $190 million bond in front of voters, likely in September. (See coverage at the Press-Citizen and The Gazette.)

Concerns have been expressed about a lack of a unanimous board vote, suggesting that the bond has already been undermined by the two dissenting board directors. It hasn’t.

This bond is going to succeed or fail based on the ability of its proponents to persuade at least 60% of the voters to pass the bond.

It is nice to think that Directors Hemingway and Liebig could have erased community concerns–and guaranteed passage of the bond–simply by changing their votes. But it doesn’t work that way.* Giving voice to dissenting opinions and concerns doesn’t create dissension and concerns within the community, but it is essential for ensuring vigorous public debate in matters of interest to the public.

The school board vote earlier this week wasn’t the end of debate on the bond and the Facilities Master Plan. That debate will continue through election day and beyond, as the school board continues to make decisions about altering and carrying out the FMP.

The fact that some people (continue to hold and) express opinions contrary to our own is super annoying. But expressions of dissent have also been an ongoing invitation for proponents of the FMP/bond to work for a defensible FMP process, a defensible FMP, a defensible bond proposal, and to make the case for why voters should support it all with a vote in favor of the bond. We’ll see how effectively it was all done on election night.

*It doesn’t work that way unless Directors Hemingway and Liebig are the only members of the community with concerns. In which case, don’t worry! They each only have one vote to cast in the bond election and can’t, alone, cause the bond to fail.

Postsecondary Remedial Math Data

The Iowa Department of Education announced a new website today, Iowa’s Postsecondary Readiness Reports, which, among other things, is meant to report student enrollment in remedial math and English courses at two- and four-year postsecondary institutions. The website offers information by individual Iowa high school and by demographic groups.

Radio Iowa reports:

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds says the report provides “more precise information” to help craft new policies and spending priorities.

But, as always, details matter, because the definition of remedial math is non-credit bearing math courses. Remedial math is not defined as retaking math courses already passed for credit at the high school level. Remedial math is not defined as having to take math courses that are pre-requisites for first year math courses for your major. Parents paying college prices for math courses already taken in high school might disagree with the State’s definition of “remedial.”

At the University of Iowa, credit bearing course work begins with College Algebra, even though many majors require students to be prepared to start with a pre-calculus or a calculus course. Only students placing into Basic Algebra will be counted as enrolling in a remedial math course. Consequently, the “more precise information” in these reports, don’t actually help school districts understand whether their students are having to retake math courses already passed at the high school or whether their students are really prepared to start with the first year math courses required for their selected majors. In short, the remedial course enrollment percentages will look the same for Iowa high schools that are preparing the majority of their students well for placement in calculus courses and those that are preparing the majority of their students for placement in College Algebra and Trigonometry courses.

This statistic, like high school graduation rates, isn’t difficult to game. We could drive remediation rates even lower by pressuring four-year institutions to grant credit for Basic Algebra, too. Despite all the talk about the importance of STEM education in Iowa, we still aren’t collecting (sharing?) the information we need to assess how well schools are preparing students for first year college math courses.

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.

SSA Reference Numbers FY2018

I occasionally find myself trying to find dollar figures for SSA, as SSA is frequently reported in percentages that can’t easily be compared to other budget item spending.

This year, Governor Branstad referenced specific dollar figures in his Condition of the State address [$78.8 million for FY2018 and $63.5 million for FY2019 from the actual speech, which are slightly higher than numbers in the speech as prepared].

For future reference, here are dollar figures for various SSA percentages for FY 2018 from the Legislative Services Agency.

These numbers are complicated by the fact that the Teacher Leadership program grant has ended and the money for the third year of the grants has rolled over to the regular education funding streams. The teacher leadership money is $54 million and accounts for most of the reason the numbers listed at each percent of growth are so much higher for FY2018 than for FY2019. Governor Branstad’s numbers don’t match the LSA numbers for 2% growth, in part, because he elected to exclude the teacher leadership money from the “new money” proposed in his budget. However, legislative discussions of percent growth will be based upon the numbers provided by the LSA, which must account for those teacher leadership dollars as “new” because they are new to this particular funding stream.

  • 0.0%                –$62.2 million
  • 0.5%                –$81.0 million
  • 1.0%                –$100.0 million
  • 1.5%                –$119.2 million
  • Gov. proposal—$141.0 million [LSA puts this at an increase of $132 per student for a total of $6,723 per student for the 2017-18 school year]
  • 2.0%                –$141.4 million
  • 2.5%               –$158.7 million
  • 3.0%               –$177.8 million
  • 3.5%               –$197.5 million
  • 4.0%               –$217.8 million