Iowa’s Smarter Balanced MOU: Why It Matters

There has been considerable debate regarding several bills aimed at keeping Common Core out of Iowa. Opponents of Common Core argue that local control of education and Common Core are not compatible, however the Iowa Board of Education, the governor’s office and many legislators are adamant that we are maintaining local control through Iowa Core even with Common Core imbedded into Iowa Core.

In the meantime, we have a document to which few are paying any attention – the SBAC MOU.

Why does the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortia (SBAC) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) even matter the Common Core debate?

It matters because the MOU has signed away our state sovereignty for education in Iowa.

Iowa must now submit to the governance of the SBAC.

  • Iowa is bound to “to every statement and assurance made in the (MOU)” (page 1)
  • Iowa must “adopt the Common Core standards” (page 3)
  • Iowa student, teacher and district evaluations would be developed by SBAC (page 4)
  • Iowa must “Adhere to governance as outlined” in the MOU (page 3)
  • Iowa must “Agree to support decisions of the Consortium” (page 3)
  • Iowa must change laws to meet the SBAC requirements.
  • Iowa must “Identify and implement a plan to address barriers in State law, statute, regulation, or policy to implementing the proposed assessment system and addressing any such barriers prior to full implementation of the summative assessment components of the system.” (page 3)

Iowa must ask permission to leave SBAC.

  • “A state requesting an exit from the Consortium must submit in writing their request and reasons for the exit request.”
  • “Upon approval of the request, the Project Management Partner will then submit a change of membership to the USED (U.S. Education Department) for approval” (page 12)

How do we regain our state sovereignty over education? The request is simple: The Governor of Iowa, the State Board of Education President and the State Director of Education only need to send a letter to Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia informing them that Iowa wants to regain its state sovereignty and we wish to exit SBAC. If the request is granted by SBAC and the federal government, Iowa would then be free to implement Iowa Core with no interference by outside entities.

Page numbers listed above are for the SBAC MOU which can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/IowaSBAC or you can read a summary of highlights below:

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, Iowa’s History and the Connection to Common Core

On June 8, 2010 Governor Chet Culver signed the first Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium(SBAC) Memorandum of Understanding(MOU). The SBAC MOU obligates Iowa to adopt and use the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The finalized Common Core State Standards were released June 2, 2010. This gave Iowa 6 days to review the finalized CCSS before committing to adopt them.

On June 1, 2011 Governor Terry Branstad submitted an addendum to the MOU. The addendum requested a role change in the Consortium, changing Iowa from an Advisory State to a Governing State. This addendum states: “We have adopted the Common Core Standards which are known as our Iowa Core Standards. Our new Governor, State Board Chairperson, and State Director of Education believe this is the right time for Iowa to be involved in building a system of formative, interim, and summative assessments, organized around the Common Core Standards.”

Highlights from the SBAC MOU (as not covered below)

  • The MOU is subtitled “Race to the Top Fund Assessment Program: Comprehensive Assessment Systems Grant Application CFDA Number: 84.395B” (page 1).
  • The MOU binds Iowa “to every statement and assurance made in the (MOU)” (page 1).
  • “The Consortium intends to build a flexible system of assessment based on the Common Core Standards in English language arts and Mathematics…” (page 2).
  • “A sophisticated design will yield scores to support evaluations of student growth, as well as school, teacher, and principal effectiveness.” (page 3)
  • “On-demand and curriculum-embedded assessments will be incorporated over time….” (page 3)

Iowa’s Responsibilities to SBAC (page 3)

  • “Adopt the Common Core Standards, which are college-and career ready standards, and to which the Consortium’s assessment system will be aligned, no later than December 31, 2011.”
  • “Fully implement statewide the Consortium summative assessment in grades 3-8 and high school” for both Math and ELA no later than 2014-2015
  • “Adhere to governance as outlined” in this MOU
  • “Agree to support decisions of the Consortium”
  • “Identify and implement a plan to address barriers in State law, statute, regulation, or policy to implementing the proposed assessment system and addressing any such barriers prior to full implementation of the summative assessment components of the system.”

Responsibilities of the Consortium (page 4-5)

The Consortium will provide the following by the 2014-15 school year:

#1,#2, and #3: A comprehensively designed assessment system (see MOU for details).

#4 “Psychometrically sound scaling and equating procedures.”

#5 “Reliable, valid, and fair scores for students and groups that can be used to evaluate student achievement and year-to-year growth; determine school/district/state effectiveness for Title 1 ESEA; and better understand the effectiveness and professional development needs of teachers and principals.”

#6 “Achievement standards and achievement level descriptors that are internationally benchmarked.”

#7 “Assess for the state or its authorized delegate to secure item and task bank that includes psychometric attributes required to score assessment in a comparable manner with other state members,…” (note: “item and task bank” is another term for database)

#8 “Online administration with limited support for paper and pencil through the end of 2016-2017 school year. States using the paper and pencil option will be responsible for any unique costs associated with the development and administration of the paper and pencil assessments.”

#9 “Formative assessment tools and supports that are developed to support curricular goals.”

#10 “Professional development focused on curriculum and lesson development as well as scoring and examination of student work.”

#11 “A representative governance structure….will be responsible for implementing plans that are consistent with this MOU, but may make changes as necessary through a formal adoption process.”

#12 Through the 2013-14 school year, a Project Management Partner will monitor for the U.S. Department of Education the progress of deliverables of the proposal.

#13 By September 2014, a financial plan will be approved by Governing States.

#14 “A consolidated data reporting system will be provided.

#15 States will be responsible for any hardware and vendor services necessary to implement the operational assessments. SBAC may elect to jointly procure these services on behalf of the Total State Membership.

How to Exit from the Consortium (page 12)

“Any state may leave the consortium without cause, but must comply with the following exit process:

  • A state requesting an exit from the Consortium must submit in writing their request and reasons for the exit request.
  • The written explanation must include the statutory policy reasons for the exit,
  • The written request must be submitted to the Project Management Partner with the same signatures as required for the MOU,
  • The Executive committee will act upon the request within a week of the request, and
  • Upon approval of the request, the Project Management Partner will then submit a change of membership to the USED (U.S. Education Department) for approval”

Items bolded are for emphasis and are not bolded in the MOU document.

The Iowa SBAC MOU document is located at: http://tinyurl.com/IowaSBAC

You can download this information as a handout here or as one page summary here.

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