Jason Glass, SBAC Assessments and Moving Forward

jason-glassI wanted to follow up on my post yesterday about the education bill that passed in the Iowa House after receiving an email from Jason Glass the director of the Iowa Department of Education.

It did not originate with the DE – our language was in the Governor’s original proposal and our plan on SBAC was exactly what I communicated to you earlier.  However, I do support the amendment and am fine with this work being accelerated.

I am patently offended by the baseless accusation you made today.  It’s one thing to respectfully disagree on a policy issue – it’s quite another to publicly call me a liar.  Reprehensible.
JG

I have enjoyed the dialogue that I have had with Jason Glass.  I have said in the past and I will say again he has been approachable, he listens, and responsive to tweets, emails, etc.  He is a breath of fresh air compared to previous occupants of his office.

I accept that the Department didn’t come up with the language for the amendment.  I am not surprised that he would support it.  He has been clear on this issue.

As far as the second paragraph of his email, let’s review what I said.

I’m also disgusted because I basically feel like I was lied to by Director Glass.  Perhaps it was unintentional, and was miscommunication instead, doesn’t matter.  If the Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessments are such a great thing, include it in the primary bill and not sneak it in last minute by amending another amendment.  Nobody saw it coming.  I’m sure it’s a great strategy to get what you want in a bill, but it stinks when you’re touting that the process behind approving the Common Core was transparent.  Not so, and this provides further proof.

Ok, first, I didn’t accuse him of anything.  I didn’t call him a liar.  I was very deliberate in my choice of words.  I said “I basically feel like I was lied to.”  That is a statement of feeling, not a statement of fact.  I did feel that way.  He may not like that I felt that way, but it is how I felt.  I’m glad to hear that the language didn’t originate with his office.  It’s important to know that I can trust his word.  If I had called him a liar this post would be an apology because that would have been totally out-of-line.  Those of you who read this blog know that I have publically apologized on occasion when I didn’t get a fact right or I wasn’t very charitable.  Today’s verse on our Facebook page was apropos to this discussion, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers,” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV).

I didn’t call him a liar (a statement of fact) and expressed instead how I felt yesterday (statement of feeling) because I didn’t know.  I would have maligned his character and I would have been the liar.  Could I have phrased this better?  I’m sure I could have.  I do regret that he felt that I was accusing him of being a liar.  I, perhaps, should have been clearer that I wasn’t actually calling him a liar, and for that Director Glass, I do apologize.  I thought that reading the entire section in this particular post made it clear that I wasn’t doing that, but evidently it was not.  I was frustrated by the amendment and the run around I was getting regarding who provided the language of this amendment.  I still don’t know.

Moving on.  I don’t have a time machine to go back to address this issue with legislators.  I do believe it is reasonable for voters to ask State Representative Ron Jorgensen why he lent his name to the amendment.  I believe that was poor judgment on his part and he should explain.  I think the majority of the House Republican Caucus didn’t have the information they needed to make an informed decision.

Iowans should have full knowledge about the Common Core, the assessments involved, the content, and the cost.  I believe they have that knowledge.  That’s a travesty.  Already several states are expressing “buyer’s remorse” when it comes to the assessments in particular.  Florida is experiencing tremendous problems implementing the Common Core mainly due to the assessments.  The Indiana Senate just passed a bill that would put a hold on the Common Core’s implementation and ensure a public review.  Utah and Alabama have left their assessment consortium.  South Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, Michigan, and Georgia all have active legislation addressing the Common Core.

Why not Iowa?  Especially in the Iowa House that is led by a party that should believe in local control.

Iowans deserve a public debate on this and given the opportunity to provide feedback.  Even if you like the standards and believe they are the greatest thing since sliced bread you should be in favor of transparency.  The Common Core and their assessments should have an unlimited review… not just assessed by groups that are being paid by the same entities pushing the Common Core.  Any reasonable person can see the conflict of interest there.  The public should hear from people on all sides of the issue, not just the pro-common core talking points, but also not limited to my point of view.

This issue is far too important to be handled any other way.  It is unacceptable that an unelected board is making decisions like these.  It is unacceptable that an open door is given to assessments under the table like what happened on Tuesday.

But as the saying goes… do this to me once, shame on you (Jorgensen and unnamed accomplices), do it twice, then shame on me.  What needs to happen next?

Our only course of action as I see it.

  1. Stop this from being added in the Iowa Senate.  You may think that is a tall order, but Democrats, typically, are not a fan of high-stakes testing so we have some common ground.  Should that effort be successful then make sure it isn’t added during the likely conference committee when members of the Iowa House and Iowa Senate iron out differences in their respective bills.
  2. Encourage members of the Legislature to request a cost analysis of the Smarter Balanced Assessments by the Legislative Services Agency, as well as, 3rd party assessments.  How much will this cost?  What impact will this have on local school budgets?
  3. Fight the funding… even if the State Board of Education is given authority to mandate tests they still need funding to do so.  Cut off the purse strings and then it is dead in the water.

Iowans must be given a public hearing before this is every implemented in our state.

Photo Credit: Iowa Department of Education (public domain)