Just an update about yesterday’s conference committee on education reform up at the Iowa State House.  Iowa House Republicans said they’d be willing to do 4% allowable growth this year and next IF the Iowa Senate Democrats would accept their bill (HF 215) with the educational freedom measures as is.

Then you have Senate Education Chair (and chair of the conference committee) State Senator Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames) who said last week, “the price for education reform is 4 and 4, I want the governor to know this.”

Tim Albrecht, spokesman for Governor Terry Branstad said, “The Branstad administration acknowledged this, and understands this is the price for the governor’s education reform. We expect Senator Quirmbach to remain true to his word and support the plan put forward by House Republicans today, which included four percent growth each of the next two years, and contains the governor’s education reform plan. This is a good faith compromise with the Senate Democrats’ funding priorities and Republican reform priorities, and is legislation both parties in both chambers can support. The governor supports this legislation and hopes Senate Democrats will join him and Iowa House Republicans in this truly historic effort to make Iowa’s schools the best in the nation once again.”

The Branstad Administration had the graphic below on their Facebook page:


I said yesterday I’d be happy for House Republicans to offer this if it meant we get the educational freedom measures like independent accreditation for non-public schools, competent private driver’s education, and competent private instruction reform that does away with the CPI forms and other requirements.

Now they have Senate Democrats between a rock and a hard place.  Will they turn down 4% allowable growth just because they don’t want the other education reform measures?  How will they explain that to the public schools who have been asking for this?

The only thing I’m not happy about at the moment is that there is no plan to strip the assessment language from the House Bill.  Also little birdies have told me there is misinformation going on from Iowa Department of Education staffers which could be the reason why this has not been done.  They are saying that there isn’t any language related to Smarter Balanced Assessments.

If they are referring to State Senator Amy Sinclair’s assessment amendment in the Senate bill they would be correct.  However the amendment that State Representative Ron Jorgensen (R-Sioux City) offered, was passed, and now is a provision in the House Bill says (starting at line 30-3):

Annually, the department shall report state data for each indicator in the condition of education report. Rules adopted pursuant to this subsection shall specify that the approved district=wide assessment of student progress administered for purposes of this paragraph the indicators shall be the assessment utilized by school districts statewide in the school year beginning July 1, 2011, or a successor assessment administered by the same assessment provider.   (2) Notwithstanding subparagraph (1), for the school year beginning July 1, 2014, and each succeeding school year, the rules shall provide that all students enrolled in school districts in grades three through eleven shall, within forty=five days of the end of the school year, be  administered an assessment that at a minimum assesses the indicators identified in this paragraph “b”; is aligned with the Iowa common core standards in both content and rigor; is developed by a consortium in which the state of Iowa is a participant; accurately describes student achievement and growth for purposes of the school, the school district, and  state accountability systems; and provides valid, reliable, and fair measures of student progress toward college or career readiness. (3) The director shall establish a task force to review and assist with the final development and implementation of the assessment specified in subparagraph (2). The task force members shall include but not be limited to teachers, school administrators, business leaders, representatives of state agencies, and members of the general public. This subparagraph  is repealed July 1, 2015. (bold emphasis mine)

This could mean nothing but the Smarter Balanced Assessments.  What other consortium does the state of Iowa belong to?  It could also be applied to PARCC if for some reason SBAC goes under and Iowa decides to join.  These are the only two consortiums that are developing assessments fully aligned to the Common Core (which are now Iowa’s Math and ELA standards).

Then there is this email I received from the Iowa Department of Education director, Jason Glass, the day after I wrote a post expressing my unhappiness about this being a part of the bill when I was told it wasn’t going to be pushed until next year.

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.

So according to Glass this is referring to SBAC.

Here’s why I’m against Smarter Balanced Assessments:

  • Cost, we still don’t know how much these will cost.  Wouldn’t it make sense to find out that information first?
  • Student privacy: There’s a possibility these assessments could be used for data mining, wouldn’t it make to have the assessments developed before the legislature signs on to them?
  • If the assessments are aligned to the standards and teachers could end up be evaluated by them (as is happening in other states) how could that not impact the curriculum?
  • There is already a tendency to teach to the test with assessments like these so it is bogus to claim that the Common Core are just standards and not curriculum.
  • This is being driven by the U.S. Department of Education through funding and now they have established a committee who will review the content of the assessments.  Republican legislators who care about federalism – that’s ok with you?
  • This further entrenches the Common Core into our state which have not received public feedback from Iowa citizens, legislature or field testing prior to implementation.  If legislators sign off on SBAC they are in effect signing off on the Common Core.

So below is the list of the conference committee members.  Thank the Republicans for standing firm on educational freedom measures, encourage the Democrats to accept their offer, and ask both to please, please remove the assessments language from the House bill so Iowans can have a chance to weigh in on this next year.

Iowa Senate Members:

Iowa House Members:

Photo Credit (top picture): Audio Luci Store via Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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