Common Core Debated in the Iowa House

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Henry Burke watches Jane Robbins of American Principles Project give her testimony during a Iowa House subcommittee.

(Des Moines, IA) There were two subcommittee meetings scheduled on Wednesday in the Iowa House to discuss bills that address the Common Core State Standards.  Wednesday morning a subcommittee consisting of State Representatives Sandy Salmon (R-Denver), Josh Brynes (R-Osage), and Cindy Winckler (D-Davenport) met to discuss HF 2141 a bill that would direct the Iowa State Board of Education to remove Iowa out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Byrnes, coming into the meeting late, said that he was a no vote on the bill.  “I am a no vote on this bill because I am a public school teacher, I’m a former public school teacher, I’ve been in the classroom and I’ve seen how difficult it is when you do not have consistency or uniformity in our curriculum.  I have school districts in my legislative district that have students that are moving from one school district to another school district… and it is hard to figure out what they have had before in there prior education and hard to figure out the kinds of things they have covered prior,” Brynes said.

He says the Common Core provides teachers with consistency.  He said it allows schools to better place students.  He also spoke in favor of the assessments and the data-gathering that comes with it.

“I understand the Federal government and some of the tendency when they become involved in things.  I understand that.  They don’t have a very good track record with their finances and things like that.  We know that, but I do think there is value in this.  I do think value in collecting data so we can make better decisions based on the data we collect from these tests,” he added.

Winckler discussed the Iowa Core being developed by Iowa teachers, but insinuated that the Iowa Core timeline and Common Core timeline were synonymous.  The original Iowa Core math and English-Language Arts standards were passed in 2005 and expanded to include K-8 students in 2007.  Work on the Common Core did not begin until June 1, 2009 when the Common Core State Standard Initiative was launched by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers.  The final draft of the Common Core State Standards was not released until May of 2010.  There were no Iowans on the writing team, research team or validation team for the Common Core State Standards.  The Iowa State Board of Education adopted the Common Core on July 29, 2010 replacing Iowa’s previous standards.  Only two-and-a-half months after the final draft was released.  They then approved an additional 12% to the standards.  Video of Byrnes and Winckler can be viewed below.

 

Jane Robbins, senior fellow with the American Principles Project was the first to give testimony in favor of HF 2141.  Robbins pointed out that Smarter Balanced is one of the two assessment consortia that the Federal government is currently funding.  “The Federal government is illegally funding and it is perhaps illegally controlling Smarter Balanced.  The U.S. Department of Education has given approximately $175 million to the Smarter Balanced Consortium so that it can develop assessments and instructional modules.  Through this funding the Federal government is not only violating a federal statute prohibiting its involvement with creating assessments, but also it is violating three separate statutes that prohibits supervising, directing or controlling curriculum because Smarter Balanced is developing curriculum.  Even more troubling is that the Federal government is involved in the ‘item design’ of the Smarter Balanced test.  This means that there is at least some Federal oversight over the actual questions on the test.  Iowans should be greatly concerned that their students may end up taking what is in essence a Federal test.” Robbins said during her testimony.

She also said that Smarter Balanced has embraced progressive testing fads that have failed in practice in other states.  Robbins stated that Smarter Balanced intends to replace the typical multiple choice test with assessments that utilize open response type questions and performance items.  “Kentucky implemented a test that embodied most of the progressive ideas of the Smarter Balanced test especially with respect of the design of test items.  For many reasons including lack of efficiency, problems in scoring these subjective items and test responses the Kentucky experiment was abandoned as a resounding failure,” Robbins added.

You can watch Robbins full testimony on HF 2141 below:

 

Winckler interrupted Robbins testimony toward the end to solicit a response from the Iowa Department of Education who was represented by Mike Cormack the department’s policy liaison.  This was met by a negative response by grassroots activists gathered.  Salmon, who was chairing the subcommittee, found that out-of-order and encouraged Robbins to finish.

Henry Burke, a retired civil engineer, has provided a cost analysis on how much the Common Core will cost in each of the 45 states that have adopted Common Core.  He also testified, and stated that the implementation of the Common Core State Standards will cost Iowa initially $193 million.  The largest cost he said would be the technology that is required to implement the test.

See Burke’s testimony below.  You can read a summary of Burke’s Iowa report here.

 

There are rural school districts that lack broadband access. Also currently Iowa pays $3.50 per student per assessment for the Iowa Assessments that are used for Iowa’s 3rd-8th graders.  Smarter Balanced Assessments would cost $27.30 per student per assessment.

Bruno Behrends with the Heartland Institute said he wanted to respond to Byrnes “hit and run” at the start of the committee meeting.  Byrnes had left during Robbins’ testimony what he called a workforce development meeting away from the Capitol grounds with students from his district.  Behrends said that if Byrnes and others were to debate those who oppose the Common Core and they looked at every fact and figure that was available.  “On a balance of the preponderance of the evidence of that debate your side (pro-Common Core) would lose.  This is because Common Core is not what you say it is, it is not what Mr. Byrnes said it is.  It is not a standards of robust content curriculum.” Behrends stated.

“What Common Core really is…. it is a changing of the process of education, and it is even stripping out content and it is even stripping out standards,” he added.

Watch Behrends testimony below:

 

Heather Stancil, an engineer from Earlham who has volunteered as a Math tutor in her school district. She said that she was very concerned about the curriculum that schools are purchasing that is aligned to the Common Core Math Standards. She said this is not the type of math used in her field and questioned how prepared students will really be upon graduation.

 

Cormack from the Department of Education was given time to respond. Referencing Behrends testimony, “I agree with one statement that was made by the gentleman that there needs to be a fair and honest debate.  It looks like the time is going to run out here and simply say with everyone else who isn’t given the opportunity that virtually every major educational group in the state is against this bill.  Virtually, a whole host of business organizations in Iowa that are against this bill and it does appear likely that this bill is not going to leave this room.”

He also noted that the Iowa Legislature in their education reform bill last session created an assessment task force to explore different assessments including Smarter Balanced. They will then give their recommendations to the Iowa Legislature. He encouraged the lawmakers on the committee to give the task force the opportunity to do their work. He also stated that $193 million and subsequent annual expenses due to the Common Core is “a drop in the bucket” compared to what Iowa’s education spending is. He said that Iowa will still spend money on professional development, technology, etc. regardless of whether they adopted the Common Core or not.

See Cormack’s remarks here:

 

Representatives from the Iowa Chamber Alliance, School Administrators of Iowa and the Iowa State Educators Association also spoke against the bill.

Michelle Crystal, a parent from Adel, took issue with what she interpreted to be a complaint by Cormack about the lack of a “fair and honest” debate during the subcommittee meeting.   “Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater, the fact  you said this is not a fair and honest debate.  This has been voted in since 2010.  Chet Culver had seven weeks to look at the Common Core Standards before he was forced to sign onto these.  That’s not fair and balanced.”

See Crystal’s remarks below:

Tamara Scott from Concerned Women for America of Iowa spoke to the subcommittee in favor of the bill.  CWA-Iowa brought the Robbins, Burke, and Behrends to Iowa for a forum held on Tuesday night, as well as, to testify to the subcommittees.

Ernie Rudolph with the Iowa Property Rights Council spoke in favor of the bill. He echoed Robbins testimony that about the problems inherent with Iowa’s memorandummemeorandum of understanding with Smarter Balanced and their agreement with the U.S. Department of Education.

 

The second subcommittee meeting was scheduled at noon on Wednesday to discuss HF 2140 that would make the Iowa Core, along with the Common Core State Standards, voluntary for Iowa’s public schools and accredited non-public schools.  This subcommittee consisted of State Representatives Salmon, Greg Forristall (R-Macedonia) and Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City).

The meeting started about 25 minutes late as Forristall arrived late.  About 2 minutes into Robbins testimony Forristall interrupted and stated that it was not proper for the testimony to proceed since Steckman, the ranking member of the Committee, was not in attendance.  House Democrats called a caucus and she was expected to be there.  Forristall threatened to make a formal complaint with Speaker Kraig Paulsen if Salmon continued the meeting.  She adjourned the subcommittee meeting and the testimony continued informally.

Robbins highlighted what she saw as content problems within the standards.  Citing analysis by members of the Common Core validation committee who did not sign off on  the final draft.  James Milgram, a professor emeritus of mathematics from Stanford University, Robbins explained said that the Common Core would put 7th graders two years behind.  She noted other Milgram, and even lead writer of the Math standards Jason Zimbia, has said that students would be inadequately prepared for STEM using the Common Core.

You can see Robbins testimony below.

 

Burke also testified. Giving a shorter testimony he specifically discussed Iowa’s Common Core costs and spoke briefly about concerns he had with the Common Core English Langauge Arts standards.

Burke’s 2nd testimony can be seen below.

 

Behrends also testified again. Watch his 2nd testimony below:

Cormack was given an opportunity to speak again.

“The one thing that I cannot wrap my head around is those who supported both bills did so with actual fact, from not only the MOU’s and the Federal Dept. of Education’s own words, but the actual words from those who have funded it, from the letter of the law , from Arne Duncan and from Mr. Coleman, the who actually wrote the Common Core standards,” Crystal told Caffeinated Thoughts in response to both meetings.  “Those in  opposition in that (committee) room, not only did not have facts, but they lied, misinformed and manipulated.  They tried to shut those down who supported it and when those in opposition to the bills actually spoke, they showed their sheer ignorance to what was just stated earlier in the meeting.”

The fate of HF 2140 is uncertain.  That subcommittee meeting was rescheduled for Monday, February 17th at 11:00a in Room 102.

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