Thursday, February 5, 2015

Superintendent, school board members want more cuts to school programs

What other conclusion can you reach from their utter silence on the proposal to spend uncounted millions on the Smarter Balanced standardized tests?

They know that the tests will cause cuts. If they didn’t know it already, their experience with the teacher leadership program would make it obvious. When the legislature debated the teacher leadership program last year, our superintendent and board members didn’t object. Then—surprise!—the teacher leadership program cost so much that there wasn’t enough left for supplemental aid. And now the district wants us all to lobby for more aid. Where were they when it mattered?

Now the same thing is happening again. The state wants an enormous increase in the amount spent on standardized testing. This will obviously divert money from supplemental aid; a 4% funding increase will be a pipe dream. You can have the tests or you can have decent supplemental aid; you can’t have both. How can our district ask us to lobby for more aid while not objecting at all to that huge expense, especially when a much cheaper alternative is available?

There’s only one way to interpret it: They want the cuts.

UPDATE 2/8/15: The Press-Citizen has an article this morning about the tests; the ICCSD curriculum director told the reporter that district leaders have “concern” about the tests. See the comments below. Still no indication that that concern is enough to make those leaders oppose adopting the tests, or that they are expressing any of those concerns to the legislators who will decide the issue. Still, it’s something. More please?


Chris said...

If I’m wrong and anyone on the board has advocated against the Smarter Balanced tests, I’m happy to make a correction or an update here. I would hope any such advocacy would be public advocacy, to alert people in the district to the issue, not just private or off-the-record comments to a legislator.

Unknown said...

I have heard something that suggests that the task force recommendations have been misread, so if Chris doesn't mind, this seems as good a place as any to clarify the recommendations.

The recommendation is to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments. Period.

To adopt them even if school districts don't receive a single penny of extra funding to pay for them. To adopt them even if some schools don't have the technology in place to administer them.

Yes, there are recommendations that the state fund them and study and plan for the required tech readiness, but the recommendation to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments is not contingent on the state doing these things.

Chris said...

Thanks, Karen. Could anyone really be thinking that "It's okay because they would never adopt these tests without paying for them and also fully funding decent supplemental aid"? Or "It's okay because they would never go forward with these tests if the tech wasn't ready"? You'd have to have your head awfully far in the sand (or somewhere else) to believe that.

First-year law students learn the principle that you're presumed to intend the natural and probable consequences of your acts. If you fire a gun into a crowd, you can’t say afterward that you didn’t really intend to hit anyone. If you sit passively by while the legislature diverts supplemental aid to buy standardized tests, you can’t say afterward that you didn’t want the resulting budget cuts.

Julie VanDyke said...

Karen is correct per what I heard in the worksession/committee meeting where Pam Ehly and David Dude addressed this topic.

This is one more requirement the State is dumping on school district budgets already stretched to the breaking point without increasing public ed funding to meet it.

"The recommendation is to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments. Period.
To adopt them even if school districts don't receive a single penny of extra funding to pay for them. To adopt them even if some schools don't have the technology in place to administer them."

Mary Murphy said...

I'd prefer my children's data stay with an Iowa entity where, at least if I don't like what is done with it, I have an opportunity to deal with my Iowa legislators. Once Iowa children's data is with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, IMO there will be insufficient control over it even with a privacy agreement in place. Yes, Iowa is an affiliate member of the Consortium; however, the Iowa Director of Education is also part of The Council of Chief State School Officers, an organization that has received millions from the Gates Foundation. You can see awarded grants here

Smarter Balanced Assessments will cost Iowans money on the front end and money on the back end because not only will the tests be more expensive, the new curricula needed to teach students so they can better respond to the tests will be more expensive as well.

The money saved by not switching to Smarter Balanced Assessments would be better spent on teachers.

Plus, this idea of tracking children's data for years is getting creepy.

Anonymous said...

I see this article depicting your local school administrators in a different light - beyond "utter silence"

Chris said...

Matt – Yes, I saw the article—there’s some good stuff in it. Here’s the clickable link, and here’s the part about the ICCSD:

Pam Ehly, the Iowa City Community School District’s curriculum director, said the district’s school computer labs don’t have enough computers to administer online tests to all students simultaneously, the way students take the Iowa Assessments.

She said even if schools test students in smaller groups, other students would lack access to computers for class.

“That will no longer be available to them during the assessment period,” she said.

Ehly said the district’s schools also would switch from testing in fall to spring and might need additional technology support to handle computers crashing and other issues. . . .

Ehly said with hundreds of students in the Iowa City school district taking the new tests, the extra $16 to $18 per student would add up quickly. She said there’s concern among district leaders about adding another expenditure to the already-strained general fund budget.

“Somebody’s going to have to pay for it,” she said.

That’s a step in the right direction, but it’s still pretty weak tea. The district should be doing more than just waiting until a reporter calls and then expressing “concerns.” Are they expressing any of those concerns to anyone in the legislature? Are the school board members? Are they for or against the recommendation to adopt the Smarter Balanced tests?

The district did not include the issue in its list of legislative priorities that it wants us all to lobby the legislature about. They’re going to bring a group to the capital on February 17 to lobby for those priorities. Will anyone be saying anything about Smarter Balanced?

Next year, or in the years after that, when it turns out there’s not enough money to give us decent supplemental aid, I think people will look back at this moment and ask why the district didn’t at least *try* to stop this train from leaving the station. At least I know I will.

Chris said...

Mary -- Thanks for the comment. I agree that the privacy concerns are serious and that the data-tracking is creepy.

Julie VanDyke said...

To Matt Townsley, out of curiosity, since you don't really seem to be addressing main points as much as you seem to be nitpicking at them...and because you seem unfamiliar with the Press Citizen's reputation for difficulty with accuracy when reporting on the school district under the current and a recently previous "reporter" a couple years ago. Even ICCSD administrators wail and wring their hands at the lack of accuracy after spoon-feeding either of those alleged reporters....

...So, seriously Matt, what's your skin in this game that you're pretty much not playing devil's advocate (pun intended) as much as you're picking a couple words in a comment and devaluing the main points while nit-picking instead of just spitting out what it is you disagree with.

My skin in the game primarily centers around my having a child in the school district, which is certainly no requirement for discussion or to have a voice in the discussion, and advocating for better conditions, policy, actions, open-bidding, keeping their promises, being good shepherds of our children and the money that should pay more teachers to educate them here.

Matt Townsley said...

HI Julie,
I am a district administrator for a neighboring school district. I have a vested interest in factual education reporting and am not aware of any history between the Iowa City schools and local news reporters.

The context of the specific conversation between Chris and myself started on Twitter (see this and spilled over into the comment space on his blog.

Hopefully Chris can attest that our conversation has been cordial and often productive in both social mediums, even when we may disagree.

Chris said...

All commenters are welcome here! I am definitely interested in hearing other perspectives about the issue of standardized testing, especially since I have many questions about its value and how the results are used. I only wish I had more time to engage with commenters about some of those questions — I keep hoping that time might materialize.

Julie VanDyke said...

Chris - of course all commenters are welcome on your blog, it is yours, you host well, and I would expect nothing less than such graciousness from you whether we are in agreement on an issue or point or not. But Matt's comments are puzzling to me in a way no other commenters here, pro or con, have quite struck me before...and so I asked him what his connections to the topic are.

Matt, with the position you hold in that neighboring district, I'd love to hear more about how your district is going to pay for this testing. Also, the ICCSD's person, Pam Ehly (sp?)is retiring from what appears to be the position you hold if you'd like to learn more about the accuracy of ICCSD coverage in local media or anything...and I won't be looking at the Twitter conversation, I don't do Twitter, I have enough on my plate.

Chris, last night in the worksession Murley proposed moving Hills Elementary's back to West AGAIN, and then likely that would be from SEJH to NWJH again as well. When that happens, and I have little doubt that it won't happen, it will be the 5th and 6th times my son's school assignment/enrollment area assignment has changed in as many or even perhaps one less year. When you look at that meeting agenda, do you see anything more than what appears in the agenda page and attachments to be anthing so specific as whose school(s) have to move to make it better for everyone else, AGAIN? Cause Murley proposed the idea that they will have to move Hills and Lincoln, AGAIN, because that is AGAIN the ONLY way, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Hills and Lincoln parents and kids have been treated like second class citizens, and my son has been damaged by the poorly announced last move of his classroom with less than 3 months notice and pre-warning or input from parents before that "administrative" decision was irreversibly decided...oh, and the person I can see making the noise I was blamed for in that meeting last year, yes, he essentially chased me around the sides of the table at the back of the board room tonight yelling at me and nobody raised a finger...Chris, can you even imagine what could possibly happen to me if I chased someone around in that room "yelling" at them under the same circumstances? It's a really scary thought for me even to imagine what would happen to me if I'd done that...oh, and yes, the audio of it is quite disturbing so I probably won't listen to it again for at least a couple of days but the duct tape over my mouth couldn't have come at a better time.

Julie VanDyke said...

What Iowa "needs" is the funding that goes to provide for this at a time when school districts throughout the state have not been given any additional specialized funding to fulfill this apparent mandate.

Following quote prefaces the IDE's posting of the link below: "Iowa needs an assessment that is closely aligned with our state standards, reflects what is taught in classrooms and moves us toward having students demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary for success beyond high school." - Charlie Edwards, board president"

AGAIN, what Iowa "needs" is the funding that goes to provide for this at a time when school districts throughout the state have not been given any additional specialized funding to fulfill this apparent mandate.

Chris said...

Julie -- Yes, I was a little surprised to see the recommendation about Hills and Lincoln going back to West High, though I don't know what the alternatives are.

The PC article on it is here.

Julie VanDyke said...

Well, they discussed that too. Quite frankly though, I honestly don't even care what the reasons are any more...Hills and Lincoln have been pawns in the chess game at the benefit of others a few too many times to justify YET ANOTHER MOVE after so many in the last couple years. Though the spotlight is briefly off any visible attempt to close Hills Elementary, I am not at all pleased or accepting a Lincoln or "real" Hoover closure instead. We are all dominoes, if we "say" oh, take that school instead of my child's, that is even more offensive to me as it was when Hills was the most recent school in the electric chair before they went after "real" Hoover.

Matt Townsley said...

Julie - you asked about how our district is planning to pay for the new Smarter Balanced Assessments, if they're approved. Unless funding increases from the state, it would likely be pulling from the general fund. My understanding is that schools receive a small amount of money from the federal government via Title VI ( for the purpose of required assessments, however the amount per student has decreased during the past several years.

If enacted and not funded proportionately, this would surely not be the first underfunded (or unfunded) mandate schools have been expected to implement.

As I type this, the state board of education has endorsed the assessment task force's proposal to adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Many of my questions from one year ago are even more relevant today.

Anonymous said...

Julie I saw this interchange the other night at the meeting and this guy was trying to escape YOU. You kept writing notes and flashing them at him and you literally chased him around the room screaming through your taped-shut mouth. Disturrrrrrbing.

Julie VanDyke said...

Last summer when you went off your medications you became an obsessive stalker who was making threats to me in a variety of communication formats. A Johnson County Sheriff's Deputy on the other line with me waited to see how long it would take you to violate the parameters in the message they had me write and send to you. It was about a minute later that you did. The Deputy hung up with me and then called you to make it quite clear that you are not to make any kind of contact with me: indirectly, directly, or through other parties.
You violated their instructions on November 3rd. They checked in with you again and reminded you not to make any contact with me: indirect, direct, or through other parties.
They said they could go visit you at your home to explain things clearly to you face to face if you made that necessary and that I might want to file a restraining order. Don't make any form of contact with me again ever, not indirectly, not directly, not through other parties. I will look into a restraining order if you continue. I don't think you want them running your out of state criminal records. I don't think you need this. I don't think your little boy needs this. I would think that anyone that assists you to violate the instructions you were given by the Johnson County Sheriff's office doesn't need this either. Please make better choices for you and for your son.