Iowa Law Prevents Common Core Assessments


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smarterbalanceIowa jumped on the Common Core State Standards in 2010.  They joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  The Iowa Department of Education can’t mandate assessments.  Statutorily they are legally allowed to align the Iowa standards with other “recognized” standards.

Iowa Code 256.7 subsection 26b says:

Continue the inclusive process begun during the initial development of a core curriculum for grades nine through twelve including stakeholder involvement, including but not limited to representatives from the private sector and the business community, and alignment of the core curriculum to other recognized sets of national and international standards. The state board shall also recommend quality assessments to school districts and accredited nonpublic schools to measure the core curriculum.

We can argue how a set of standards that haven’t been field-tested are “recognized,” but that can be interpreted different ways.  Personally I believe that when the Iowa Legislature passed the Iowa Core in 2006 they made a mistake given the Iowa Department of Education that much authority to literally change standards.

The only way to fix that is through additional legislation, but the code is also confusing because it basically reverses itself in subsection 28 when it says:

Adopt a set of core content standards applicable to all students in kindergarten through grade twelve in every school district and accredited nonpublic school.  For purposes of this subsection, “core content standards” includes reading, mathematics, and science.  The core content standards shall be identical to the core content standards included in Iowa’s approved 2006 standards and assessment system under Tit. I of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, 20 U.S.C. § 6301 et seq., as amended by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110.  School districts and accredited nonpublic schools shall include, at a minimum, the core content standards adopted pursuant to this subsection in any set of locally developed content standards.  School districts and accredited nonpublic schools are strongly encouraged to set higher expectations in local standards.  As changes in federal law or regulation occur, the state board is authorized to amend the core content standards as appropriate.  (emphasis mine)

They can align the Iowa Core with other standards, but it makes it sound like they are only authorized to make changes when there has been a change in federal law or regulation.  Color me confused on that, but like all that can be done to stop the alignment to the Common Core is with specific legislation.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition assessments however can only happen in Iowa if there is a statutory change (see Iowa Code 256.7 subsection 26b cited above).  Right now all that the Iowa Department of Education can do is recommend assessments, they can’t mandate them.  Jason Glass, the Director of Iowa Department of Education confirmed this for me on Twitter and said it wasn’t something they would pursue this year.  It’ll likely be brought up in legislation in 2014, from what I have read so far, even though Governor Terry Branstad, hasn’t released his education agenda yet they’ll be busy enough.

We’ll keep our eyes open.  It’s fascinating that they jumped in with SBAC when they aren’t legally allowed to do anything with it yet.

Originally posted at Truth in American Education

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  • http://www.mctownsley.net Matt Townsley

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Iowa Assessments and Smarter Balanced Assessments. This is a topic I am interested in learning more about as well. I thought I would share a bit more information to support your post:

    Last year’s legislative session gave us SF2284 which eventually passed and states “b. A core set of academic indicators…Rules adopted pursuant to this subsection shall specify that the approved district-wide assessment of student progress administered for purposes of this paragraph shall be the assessment utilized by school districts statewide in the school year beginning July 1, 2011. The state board may submit to the general assembly recommendations the state board deems appropriate for modifications of assessments of student progress administered for the purpose of this paragraph.” From Director Jason Glass’ July 2012 letter to the field, “The General Assembly requires that the State Board of Education include in its rules that the Iowa Assessment be the only assessment that a school district may use to meet state accountability requirements. As all Iowa districts already use the Iowa Assessments for accountability purposes, this is substantively no change.”

    You’re right – a change in assessments must go through legislators. The last statement in your post is noteworthy, “It’s fascinating that they jumped in with SBAC when they aren’t legally allowed to do anything with it yet.” Looking forward to the future to see what happens!