State Representative Sandy Salmon (R-Janesville)
Photo credit: Iowa House Republicans
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State Representative Sandy Salmon (R-Janesville)
Photo credit: Iowa House Republicans

(Des Moines, IA) There were already a few bills being considered by the Iowa Legislature related to local control in education, and writing at that time I indicated there would be more. State Representative Sandy Salmon (R-Janesville) introduced two additional bills this week concerning the Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessments.

House File 139 would require any statewide assessment to be developed by the Iowa Testing Programs (ITP) at the University of Iowa. It would prohibit the use of Smarter Balanced or PARCC as a statewide, mandatory assessment. Iowa is part of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a multi-state consortium whose assessment is aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

Iowa has a long history of using tests used by ITP. They developed the Iowa Test of Basic Skills which was later updated and renamed the Iowa Assessments. The Smarter Balanced Assessment was picked by an assessment task force over ITP’s  Next Generation Iowa Assessments. The Iowa State Board of Education adopted Smarter Balanced, but was rebuked by the Iowa Legislature’s joint Administrative Rules Review Committee who voted unanimously for a session delay to the proposed rule making it the statewide assessment.

The Iowa Legislature voted to further delay the implementation of Smarter Balanced in the education appropriations bill, but that attempt was vetoed by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad who just this year put the assessment on hold.

Opponents note that the Smarter Balanced Assessments will cost Iowa’s school districts five times more than the Iowa Assessments did.  This does not include the cost of the additional science test Iowa schools will have to purchase as Iowa Assessments covered science as well.

Also adopting Smarter Balanced over an ITP assessment removes the oversight of the statewide assessment from the Iowa Board of Regents and replaces it with the California Board of Regents. California has had issues implementing Smarter Balanced, including the results being delayed until the following year long after the students have moved on. A California testing researcher, Doug McRae, gave testimony at a California State Board of Education meeting that the Smarter Balanced does not have validity.

Also, opponents note, Smarter Balanced is not subject to Iowa Open Records Law or subject to the Freedom of Information Act, as they are a private entity and lack transparency.

HF 139 is co-sponsored by State Representatives Skyler Wheeler (R-Orange City), Kristi Hager (R-Waukon), Larry Sheets (R-Moulton), Ralph Watts (R-Adel), Tedd Gassman (R-Scarville), Dean Fisher (R-Montour), Steven Holt (R-Denison), Stan Gustafson (R-Cumming), Terry Baxter (R-Garner) and Greg Heartsill (R-Chariton).

The bill was assigned to a subcommittee whose members are State Representatives Salmon (Chair), Cecil Dolecheck (R-Mt. Ayr) and Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City). The subcommittee is scheduled to meet on Thursday, February 9 at 10:00a in room 102 in the state capitol building.

Salmon also introduced HF 140 which makes the Common Core math and English language arts (ELA) standards that have been adopted into the Iowa Core voluntary for Iowa’s public and state accredited non-public schools. The Iowa State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010 and largely replaced the previous math and ELA standards.

The board then adopted the Next Generation Science Standards in 2015 replacing Iowa’s previous science standards. HF 140 would repeal the science standards which has not been fully implemented. The Iowa Core’s science standards would also be considered voluntary.

The bill would also require the Iowa State Board of Education to adopt rules to prohibit the Iowa Department of Education from adopting and implementing mandatory statewide academic standards.

The bill is cosponsored by State Representatives Wheeler, Sheets, Watts, Fisher, Holt, Gustafson, Baxter and Heartsill. It has not yet been assigned to a subcommittee.

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