Tuesday, March 31, 2015

This dog won’t hunt

I came across this from a PowerPoint on Smarter Balanced’s item design (from page 29):

Call me crazy, but I think you can dog someone to take a run with you and then go for a swim and later doll yourself up. In other words, four of the five words can be used as both verbs and nouns, but the kids are supposed to mark the “correct” answer. (There is no indication that the question was coupled with any passage that actually used the words, and even if it had been, that’s not reflected in the wording of the question.)

Questions like this, apparently, are what will give us “incredible precision in identifying skills that students have mastered,” which is why we should pay top dollar for Smarter Balanced. I feel sorry for the teacher whose job evaluation depends on her students’ scores on this kind of test. I feel sorry for the kids, too.

The question reminded me of Tom Hoffman’s post describing a hopelessly written Pearson test question. As Hoffman wrote:
Not only can the teacher not easily ignore these exercises, there is tangible risk in teaching students to question or critique them too closely, as this would be likely to lead to students answering questions “incorrectly” on standardized tests.
So the lesson is “Don’t critique the test too closely.” Brought to you by Smarter Balanced.

And also a unicorn

Here’s an email from the Iowa Association of School Boards’ “email campaign,” uncritically passing along the state task force’s recommendation of the Smarter Balanced tests and linking to the task force’s very incomplete “cost analysis.” The tag line at the bottom reads:
Brought to you by the joint efforts of Iowa Association of School Boards, School Administrators of Iowa, Iowa Area Education Agencies, Iowa State Education Association, the Rural Schools Advocates of Iowa, and the Urban Education Network of Iowa in support of adequate and timely school funding.
Reminder: Saying “I want adequate school funding AND the Smarter Balanced Assessments AND a pony” is not actually a way of supporting adequate school funding. With friends like that, school funding doesn’t need enemies.

Foregone conclusion

Here’s a little-reported story about the state assessment task force’s process. To evaluate different possible assessments, the task force created a rubric, asked vendors to respond to a request for information, then planned to score the responses. What happened, though, surprised them: No vendor submitted the Smarter Balanced Assessments for review. Of the proposals that were submitted, the Next Generation Iowa Assessments received by far the highest score. The other proposals received sufficiently low scores that the task force eliminated them from consideration.

At that point, the Next Generation Iowa Assessments became the only proposal under consideration. From the point of view of the task force, that was a problem that had to be solved. At the time, Iowa was still a member of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium; in becoming a member, the state had agreed to adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

The task force decided to issue another Request for Information and “to reach out to specific vendors to ask them to submit the Smarter Balanced Assessments for our review.” (Details here.) Lo and behold, a vendor submitted the Smarter Balanced Assessments for review.

Soon afterward, the state decided to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Consortium, as a way of “respecting the Assessment Task Force’s independence and ensuring an impartial process.” A few months later, the task force recommended that the state adopt the Smarter Balanced tests.

If it had been the Iowa Testing Programs that had failed to submit a proposal in response to the Request for Information, would the task force have issued a second request? Would it have “reached out” to ask for a submission of the Next Generation Iowa Assessments for review? Or was the task force determined from the outset to recommend Smarter Balanced?

The end of Everyday Math?

Am hearing through this new social media thing called “Facebook” that our school district has decided to abandon Everyday Math in favor of either EnVision Math (Pearson) or Math Expressions (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). I don’t have strong opinions about what math curriculum is best, though I know I have readers who are fans of Singapore Math. All I know is that Everyday Math caused a lot of anguish in my household, and I won’t be sorry to see it go.

Here’s a blurb from the website for EnVision Math:
Daily Problem-Based Interactive Math Learning followed by Visual Learning strategies deepen conceptual understanding by making meaningful connections for students and delivering strong, sequential visual/verbal connections through the Visual Learning Bridge in every lesson. Ongoing Diagnosis & Intervention and daily Data-Driven Differentiation ensure that enVisionMATH gives every student the opportunity to succeed.
I have no idea what the merits of the program are, but I can’t say I find that language confidence-inspiring. I do wish someone would do a study of language like that. Does it really persuade anyone on its own literal terms, or does it just fulfill some kind of expectation that edu-products will be accompanied by reassuring-sounding buzzwords? Or is it just there to make the eyes glaze over and disarm the reader’s critical faculties?

If Pearson’s going to get all visual-verbal-twenty-first-century on us, at least they could practice what they preach. Wouldn’t something like this achieve basically the same effect?


Hell freezes over

Never mind that other post. I decided I needed to get myself some twenty-first century skills. Stay tuned for my Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine, Kik, and Yik Yak accounts.

The link probably won’t work. I’m already perplexed by the whole thing. Twitter seems downright elegant by comparison. Hopefully Facebook’s creepy data-harvesting will enable people to find me without my help.

Monday, March 30, 2015

“A system of quick, informal tests—some lasting just a few minutes”

The Gazette ran a guest opinion piece this weekend by Mary Ellen Miller, a member of our State Board of Education and also a member of the state assessment task force, arguing that the state should adopt the Smarter Balanced tests. Miller makes some, ahem, interesting claims about Smarter Balanced.

First, Miller describes Smarter Balanced as a “a system of quick, informal tests — some lasting only a few minutes,” and that this “approach to assessment doesn’t take time away from instruction.” In fact, though there may be short practice materials included, the actual tests are between 7 and 8.5 hours long.

The task force report itself implied that schools would also want to purchase additional interim assessments—at additional cost—that would occur several times throughout the year. (See the chart on page 21.) So judge for yourself whether the tests will take time away from instruction.

Second, Miller asserts that “results from a survey of district readiness shows 99 percent of our public schools meet the minimum bandwidth requirements and have adequate computer resources to administer the Smarter Balanced assessments.” Miller states this as fact, not opinion, but it’s simply false. The state surveyed bandwidth, but did not survey computer hardware (as the task force acknowledged here). Anyone reading Miller’s piece would be misled about that basic fact. The Gazette should run a correction.

As for Miller’s assertion that 99% of districts have adequate bandwidth, remember that this is from the task force that thinks a school can give a 7.5-hour-long test to 600 students on just 30 computers. So you can see why they would say that bandwidth is sufficient.

Yet Miller claims that it’s opponents of Smarter Balanced who are misleading people. Her piece is just more evidence that the task force was determined to recommend Smarter Balanced no matter what their “inquiry” found.

Karen Woltman, the task force member who dissented from recommending Smarter Balanced, responds to Miller’s piece (with characteristic diplomacy) here.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

We don’t have to choose between Hoover and Hoover East (but if we did . . .)

Some have argued that the district can’t afford to keep Hoover School open and still open a new school in the Windsor Ridge area (currently known as “Hoover East”). As a result, the argument goes, Hoover has to close so Windsor Ridge can have its school. This argument is wrong both factually and normatively.

First, there is no reason to think that the district can’t afford both schools. The cost of keeping Hoover open even after opening Hoover East is about $191,000 annually. (See this post.) No one has demonstrated that $191,000—which is about one-tenth of one percent of the district’s budget—is the difference between solvency and insolvency. If we have to start closing schools to reap such relatively small savings, we’ve got much bigger things to worry about than Hoover East. If we can afford to open Hoover East, we can afford to keep Hoover open, too. (We can argue over names later.)

There’s also no reason to think we can’t afford to build Hoover East if Hoover stays open. It’s true that keeping Hoover open means we don’t need to build as much new capacity elsewhere, but the greatest opportunities for cutting costs from the plan are by canceling some of the additions to existing schools. Horace Mann and Longfellow, for example, could still get their renovations, air conditioning, and multi-purpose rooms without adding 330 new seats to those schools (and 330 more kids being dropped off in the morning).

Moreover, it’s reasonable to think that there will be more development and growing enrollment on the far east side, so you can see building a school there as a sensible investment, even if it’s relatively inefficient in the short term. The areas around Mann and Longfellow are already densely populated and are not likely to grow significantly, so it makes little sense to put additions there.

So yes, Hoover East and Hoover can co-exist. But if the district were forced to choose, should it sacrifice Hoover for Hoover East? No. First, if operating expenses were so tight that we had to choose between them, it would make little sense to choose the much more expensive option. The district estimates that opening Hoover East will add $500,000 to our annual operating expenses. Keeping Hoover open will cost less than half of that. Moreover, Hoover East is likely to be underfilled when it first opens (as Borlaug was and as Alexander will be for years to come).

Even setting aside cost arguments, there are compelling fairness arguments. There is no reason why Windsor Ridge’s desires should be filled at the expense of some other neighborhood’s. Closing Hoover to open Hoover East would be a reverse-Robin-Hood transfer. The Hoover area is economically diverse and includes very affordable neighborhoods; in the one-third of Hoover that lies right across the street from the school, the median home value in 2013 was $137,000. Windsor Ridge is a significantly wealthier neighborhood. It would be simply wrong to take the school from the mixed-and-moderate-income neighborhood so the wealthier neighborhood can have it. It would also be one more factor that could turn voters against the eventual bond that is crucial to completing the facilities plan. In a district that has been struggling with equity issues, it would be a great step backward.

I’m always a little surprised when people argue that Hoover should be sacrificed so their own favorite project can move forward. For one thing, it’s an awfully unsympathetic stance to take. Second, it’s effectively an admission that the new project is fiscally precarious; the listener may just decide that it’s the new project that needs to be cut. It would make a lot more sense to recognize that we can preserve our neighborhood schools and still pursue new projects, too.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Closing Hoover: Cost far outweighs benefit

When the school board voted to close Hoover Elementary, the board members didn’t articulate a clear reason for the closure. To some extent that’s still true, but over time the reasons seemed to come down to two. First, closure advocates argued that the district needed to close an elementary school to save operational expenses. Second, they argued that City High needs the Hoover land. I don’t think either reason stands up to scrutiny; in this post, I’ll focus on operational expenses, and in another post I’ll talk about the City High argument.

Before we talk about the cost of keeping Hoover open, it’s important to understand that closing Hoover costs a lot of money. If the district tears down Hoover, which can hold over 300 students, it will have to build that many new seats somewhere else. For example, while closing Hoover, the district also plans to build 330 seats of new capacity on Horace Mann and Longfellow schools, which will apparently cost somewhere in the neighborhood of ten million dollars. That’s money we wouldn’t have to spend if we kept Hoover open.

But keeping Hoover open does mean that we’ll incur annual operating costs. By combining three schools into two—which is essentially what the district would be doing by closing Hoover while expanding Mann and Longfellow—we can achieve some savings in operating costs, since, for example, we might be able to pay only two principals instead of three. But you quickly run into limits on what you can save this way: the great majority of operating costs are to pay teachers, and the students will still need teachers. Currently, Hoover has two full classrooms in each grade; there’s no reason to think that we could cut the number of classroom teachers simply by moving all the students to other schools.

So how much could be saved annually in operating costs if Hoover closes? Michael Tilley looked closely at the numbers and arrived at an estimate of $191,000. If anything, the real number might be lower, since Tilley did not factor in any busing costs. (One small corner of Hoover’s attendance area is not within two miles of any other school, and thus would be entitled under state law to busing, though it’s not clear to what degree that would affect total busing costs, or whether there would be other busing costs in addition.) If you doubt Tilley’s estimate, take a look at this (only slightly out-of-date) chart and see how you can squeeze much more than $191,000 out of closing Hoover School. (See pages 19 and 20.)

That’s just over 0.1% of the district’s annual expenditures. Of course any amount of money is important, but $191,000 is strikingly small compared with the roughly ten million dollar cost of replacing Hoover’s capacity elsewhere. Yes, I know, construction costs come out of a different “pot” of money than operating costs do. But that doesn’t mean it’s smart to spend ten million in construction costs to reap an annual savings of $191,000.

By comparison: this week the board voted not to cut discretionary bus routes, even though it would have saved $849,000 in annual operating expenses. The board (reasonably) decided that discretionary busing is important. Keeping neighborhood schools open is important too—and, as it turns out, doesn’t cost much.

Moreover, even if $191,000 were worth closing an elementary school for, there would be no reason to single out Hoover for closure. Hoover is larger than several other schools (which means it would cost more to replace its lost capacity) and is relatively efficient in its operating costs. In fact, the additions that the district is building onto Twain and Shimek bring them up to roughly the capacity that Hoover has now, which must mean that the district sees that as a workable size. Lincoln and Hills will be smaller than Hoover even after they receive their additions. None of these schools need to close.

Closing a school is a big deal. You don’t do it just to shave a tenth of a percentage point off your annual expenses, especially if it means borrowing ten million dollars for new construction. And if the district can’t resist that small annual savings, why would it stop at one school? It could save comparable amounts (or more) by closing other elementaries, until we’re left with only big 500-kid schools. If you eat that chip, it’s going to be real hard not to eat the next one, and the one after that. Is that what anyone wants?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Don’t bet against Hoover School

Another odd-numbered year, another school board election. As this September’s board election approaches, I’ll be one of the people continuing to question the wisdom of the current plan to close Hoover Elementary in 2019 as part of the district’s long-term facilities plan. I’ll be posting more soon to re-examine some of the arguments for and against the closure. In the meantime, though, I thought I’d write this quick, admittedly horse-race-style post about the prospects for reversing the closure. In short, if I were a betting person, I wouldn’t bet against Hoover staying open in the long run, for these reasons:

  • Of the six board members who supported closing Hoover, only three now remain on the board. All three of those seats are up for election this year. It’s not clear whether any of those three board members will run for re-election. (I’m counting incumbent Marla Swesey as pro-closure; though she switched her vote on it at the last minute, she later made it clear that she supports the closure and is against revisiting the decision.)

  • In the last board election, the one incumbent who supported the closure was defeated. The two top vote-getters supported keeping Hoover open, and 65% of the total votes cast went to pro-Hoover candidates.

  • Every time the district has surveyed the public about the possibility of school closings—whether in the district’s randomized phone survey or in the multiple community workshops during the facilities plan process—the result has been roughly two-to-one opposition to closings.

  • The Save Hoover group, through its petition and yard sign efforts, now has a list of nearly a thousand identified supporters of keeping Hoover open. That’s not only a sign of public support, but a great organizing tool as Save Hoover approaches the election season.

  • Voters in other parts of the district have good reason to make common cause with Hoover. No matter how you slice it, closing Hoover costs a lot of money. The district will have to spend millions to build new capacity—for example, by building additions to existing schools—to accommodate the students who currently go to Hoover. That money could just as easily be used to add seats in parts of the district that have real capacity needs. (More on this point in future posts.) Moreover, voters in other attendance areas are likely to wonder whether the logic behind closing Hoover will lead the district to close other elementaries, too.

  • Looming over the facilities plan is the eventual need to ask the voters for a $100+ million dollar bond, which would need 60% voter approval to pass. The district just can’t afford to alienate a large bloc of voters going into that bond vote.

Like on a lot of issues, what you hear from school officials and administrators about Hoover is very different from what you hear from ordinary voters. There are definitely people who would like you to think that the Hoover decision is set in stone, but that’s the kind of bravado that can evaporate overnight when election results come in. I think there’s a good chance it will.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Costs? What costs?

An illustrator I am not, but you get the idea.

I’ve written before about how mystifying it is that the president of Iowa’s teachers’ union, Tammy Wawro, who has continually advocated for a 4% or 6% increase in state school funding, would nonetheless support the proposal to adopt the Smarter Balanced standardized tests, which are so costly that they will gut state school aid increases for years to come. Now it turns out that Wawro will be one of the three presenters of the proposal to the legislature tomorrow. Does Wawro feel any responsibility for the school budget cuts that will occur as a result of adopting Smarter Balanced, or is she just in complete denial? How is she serving the interests of the state’s teachers or students by advocating for very expensive tests that can only be funded by diverting money from staffing and school programming?

Another presenter will be the superintendent of the Waterloo schools, Jane Lindaman. Lindaman, too, claims to support higher increases in state school aid. Will she identify the tax increases that should occur to enable the state to increase school aid while also buying these expensive tests? Will she discuss what cuts she expects to make in her own district to pay the bill for Smarter Balanced? Or are we all just going to pretend that adopting Smarter Balanced has nothing to do with future supplemental aid?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Legislature Considers Massive Cuts to High School Football

I couldn’t resist that post title, since apparently cuts to instructional programs don’t grab anyone’s attention. But if the legislature adopts the enormously expensive Smarter Balanced standardized tests, the cuts will have to happen somewhere. Last year our district cut seventh grade football, in addition to making cuts in orchestra and foreign language instruction and elsewhere. This year, even more cuts are on the way. Next year, when the Smarter Balanced costs start rolling in, what will be left to cut?

Please, wise legislators, let us know what we should cut for the privilege of having these shiny new tests. Then I can re-title this post accordingly.

Of course, once we’ve replaced all the teachers with online MOOCs, I suppose administrators and coaches will be the only staff left. So maybe there’s nothing to worry about.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Let them hire nannies

Stories like this have been getting more attention. Critics have complained about the nanny state and the surveillance state and have mocked Americans’ fearfulness and inability to assess risk. I agree with a lot of those criticisms, but there’s another aspect to this kind of state intervention, too: It imposes the values (and neuroses) of the wealthy on people who can’t afford them. If kids aren’t allowed to walk to school on their own or to be latch-key kids after school, then we’ve effectively made it illegal for a huge swath of the public to have kids at all.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Do the Democrats mean what they say about increasing school aid?

I’m still mystified by the decision of the state teachers’ union president, Tammy Wawro, to support the task force’s recommendation that Iowa adopt the very expensive Smarter Balanced standardized tests. Judging from her Twitter feed, Wawro is an enthusiastic advocate of a 6% increase in supplemental school aid. Is she in complete denial about cause and effect? Adopt Smarter Balanced and you’ll kill any chance of decent supplemental aid for years. Does her left hand have any idea what her right hand is doing?

I’m beginning to worry that the state Democratic Party may be just as obtuse. Democratic legislators are united about the need for more supplemental aid. Yet how many have come out against Smarter Balanced?

At least eleven House Republicans are publicly against Smarter Balanced, which means it cannot pass without Democratic support. The single best thing the Democrats could do for future school aid is to vote this turkey down. If they don’t, all their noise about wanting a 6% increase is empty lip service.

My bad dream is that the Democrats declare a “win” by caving on Smarter Balanced in exchange for a slightly higher increase in aid for next year. They can’t be that lame, can they? Can they?

Why is it wrong for a kid to cheat on a test?

This post by Justin McBrayer got me thinking about the moral status of children. The author criticizes the common practice of teaching students that opinions are unprovable “beliefs” while facts are provably “true”—thus, in effect, teaching them that there can be no moral truths. As a result, the author contends, students think a statement such as “It is wrong to cheat on a test” is merely an opinion, and cannot be “true.”

I agree with McBrayer at least to this extent: Whether there are “moral facts” is a philosophical question, open to debate, which means the school should not be teaching any view of it as a settled fact. Under the school’s own definition, the assertion that “value claims cannot be true” is itself an unprovable opinion, a “mere” belief. From the piece, though, it sounds like the author believes that the opposite “fact” should be taught as true. Either one looks like indoctrination to me.

The more interesting question, for me, is why we think it’s wrong for a kid to cheat on a test in school. I’m not saying it isn’t wrong, but I do think it matters how we get to that conclusion. It can’t be simply because the school prohibits it, right? Certainly the school can’t be the final arbiter of what is morally right and wrong. If it were, then the worst practices would become morally right just because a school requires them. (Was it morally wrong for a black child to try to attend a whites-only school?) So how should a child reach the conclusion that cheating is wrong?

Monday, March 2, 2015

You can do this in less than a minute

Things are happening very quickly in the legislature. The likely vehicle for adopting the Smarter Balanced tests is HSB 172. The bill currently contains general language about adopting assessments; on short notice, though, language specifying Smarter Balanced could be added. There is some opposition to Smarter Balanced in both parties, but it’s hard to gauge numbers.

If you’ve been following the issue on this blog, please consider taking a minute—you can do it in even less than a minute!—to email the legislators about this bill. All you need to do is cut and paste the following block of email addresses into the address field, say “Dear Legislators,” and simply ask that they vote against HSB 172 because Smarter Balanced is too expensive and because the full costs are unknown and likely to be enormous. Every little email helps.

ako-abdul-samad@legis.iowa.gov, chaz.allen@legis.iowa.gov, bill.anderson@legis.iowa.gov, marti.anderson@legis.iowa.gov, rob.bacon@legis.iowa.gov, chip.baltimore@legis.iowa.gov, clel.baudler@legis.iowa.gov, terry.baxter@legis.iowa.gov, bruce.bearinger@legis.iowa.gov, jerry.behn@legis.iowa.gov, liz.bennett@legis.iowa.gov, deborah.berry@legis.iowa.gov, rick.bertrand@legis.iowa.gov, brian.best@legis.iowa.gov, tony.bisignano@legis.iowa.gov, joe.bolkcom@legis.iowa.gov, tod.bowman@legis.iowa.gov, darrel.branhagen@legis.iowa.gov, chris.brase@legis.iowa.gov, michael.breitbach@legis.iowa.gov, timi.brown-powers@legis.iowa.gov, josh.byrnes@legis.iowa.gov, gary.carlson@legis.iowa.gov, jake.chapman@legis.iowa.gov, mark.chelgren@legis.iowa.gov, dennis.cohoon@legis.iowa.gov, mark.costello@legis.iowa.gov, thomas.courtney@legis.iowa.gov, peter.cownie@legis.iowa.gov, jeffdanielson@gmail.com, dave.dawson@legis.iowa.gov, dick.dearden@legis.iowa.gov, dave.deyoe@legis.iowa.gov, bill.dix@legis.iowa.gov, cecil.dolecheck@legis.iowa.gov, bill.dotzler@legis.iowa.gov, jack.drake@legis.iowa.gov, nancy.dunkel@legis.iowa.gov, robert.dvorsky@legis.iowa.gov, randy.feenstra@legis.iowa.gov, abby.finkenauer@legis.iowa.gov, dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov, john.forbes@legis.iowa.gov, greg.forristall@legis.iowa.gov, joel.fry@legis.iowa.gov, ruthann.gaines@legis.iowa.gov, julian.garrett@legis.iowa.gov, mary.gaskill@legis.iowa.gov, tedd.gassman@legis.iowa.gov, pat.grassley@legis.iowa.gov, mike.gronstal@legis.iowa.gov, stan.gustafson@legis.iowa.gov, dennis.guth@legis.iowa.gov, chris.hagenow@legis.iowa.gov, chris.hall@legis.iowa.gov, curt.hanson@legis.iowa.gov, maryann.hanusa@legis.iowa.gov, rita.hart@legis.iowa.gov, greg.heartsill@legis.iowa.gov, dave.heaton@legis.iowa.gov, lisa.heddens@legis.iowa.gov, lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov, jake.highfill@legis.iowa.gov, rob.hogg@legis.iowa.gov, steven.holt@legis.iowa.gov, wally.horn@legis.iowa.gov, bruce.hunter@legis.iowa.gov, dan.huseman@legis.iowa.gov, charles.isenhart@legis.iowa.gov, david.jacoby@legis.iowa.gov, pam.jochum@legis.iowa.gov, david.johnson@legis.iowa.gov, megan.jones@legis.iowa.gov, ron.jorgensen@legis.iowa.gov, tim.kapucian@legis.iowa.gov, bobby.kaufmann@legis.iowa.gov, jerry.kearns@legis.iowa.gov, dan.kelley@legis.iowa.gov, kevin.kinney@legis.iowa.gov, jarad.klein@legis.iowa.gov, kevin.koester@legis.iowa.gov, john.kooiker@legis.iowa.gov, tim.kraayenbrink@legis.iowa.gov, bob.kressig@legis.iowa.gov, john.landon@legis.iowa.gov, vicki.lensing@legis.iowa.gov, jim.lykam@legis.iowa.gov, mary.mascher@legis.iowa.gov, liz.mathis@legis.iowa.gov, dave.maxwell@legis.iowa.gov, charlie.mcconkey@legis.iowa.gov, matt.mccoy@legis.iowa.gov, brian.meyer@legis.iowa.gov, helen.miller@legis.iowa.gov, linda.miller@legis.iowa.gov, norlin.mommsen@legis.iowa.gov, brian.moore@legis.iowa.gov, zach.nunn@legis.iowa.gov, jo.oldson@legis.iowa.gov, rick.olson@legis.iowa.gov, scott.ourth@legis.iowa.gov, kraig.paulsen@legis.iowa.gov, ross.paustian@legis.iowa.gov, janet.petersen@legis.iowa.gov, dawn.pettengill@legis.iowa.gov, todd.prichard@legis.iowa.gov, hcqbach@legis.iowa.gov, amanda.ragan@legis.iowa.gov, ken.rizer@legis.iowa.gov, walt.rogers@legis.iowa.gov, ken.rozenboom@legis.iowa.gov, patti.ruff@legis.iowa.gov, kirsten.running-marquardt@legis.iowa.gov, sandy.salmon@legis.iowa.gov, tom.sands@legis.iowa.gov, charles.schneider@legis.iowa.gov, brian.schoenjahn@legis.iowa.gov, jason.schultz@legis.iowa.gov, mark.segebart@legis.iowa.gov, joe.seng@legis.iowa.gov, mike.sexton@legis.iowa.gov, larry.sheets@legis.iowa.gov, tom.shipley@legis.iowa.gov, david.seick@legis.iowa.gov, amy.sinclair@legis.iowa.gov, mark.smith@legis.iowa.gov, roby.smith@legis.iowa.gov, steve.sodders@legis.iowa.gov, chuck.soderberg@legis.iowa.gov, art.staed@legis.iowa.gov, quentin.stanerson@legis.iowa.gov, sharon.steckman@legis.iowa.gov, sally.stutsman@legis.iowa.gov, rich.taylor@legis.iowa.gov, rob.taylor@legis.iowa.gov, todd.taylor@legis.iowa.gov, phyllis.thede@legis.iowa.gov, linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov, guy.vander.linden@legis.iowa.gov, ralph.watts@legis.iowa.gov, beth.wessel-kroeschell@legis.iowa.gov, jack.whitver@legis.iowa.gov, mary.jo.wilhelm@legis.iowa.gov, john.wills@legis.iowa.gov, cindy.winckler@legis.iowa.gov, matt.windschitl@legis.iowa.gov, mary.wolfe@legis.iowa.gov, gary.worthan@legis.iowa.gov, brad.zaun@legis.iowa.gov, dan.zumbach@legis.iowa.gov

At this point, the best thing to do is email all of them as a group. If you’d like to pay special attention to your own legislators, you can identify them here.

The school budget you save may be your own.

UPDATE: I’ve corrected this post to reflect that the bill is now out of committee and before the legislature as a whole.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

“What is the goal?”

The Gazette has a terrific, thorough editorial on the proposal to adopt the very expensive Smarter Balanced standardized tests. Its conclusion:
Even if Smarter Balanced provides more detailed student information, it is difficult to understand how our cash-strapped districts will be able to use such data to enhance student learning. . . .

Are Iowans being asked to choose between the cost of an administrator to oversee test score data-crunching or the cost of a classroom teacher? If so, we believe most Iowans will — and should — choose the teacher.

Likewise, if the choice before state lawmakers is to purchase unproven, expensive assessments with titillating bells and whistles or fully fund our school districts, we hope they choose to better fund our schools.
The editorial also raises smart questions about how exactly schools will use the test scores and whether the supposed gains are worth the huge increase in cost.

Read the whole thing..