The Iowa House Passed HF 2439, What Does It Do?

HF 2439 passed out of the Iowa House 96-0 on Monday, and from what I have heard it has a good shot of surviving the 2nd funnel deadline in the Senate.

What does HF 2439 authored by State Representative Ron Jorgensen (R-Sioux City) actually do?

As you might guess a bill that garners widespread bipartisan support would be deemed non-controversial.  That being the case it is easy to infer that it doesn’t do much to address problems with have with the Common Core; especially since supporters of the Common Core voted in favor of this bill.

Here is what it actually does do.

  • It directs the the Department of Education to maintain a website where persons may access up-to-date information regarding the Iowa Core content standards and and the assessment standards that have already been adopted.
  • Starting on January 1, 2015 the state board shall provide a periodic review, accept public comment regarding, and revise as necessary, the Iowa Core content standards and the assessment standards.  Section 26 states that public comment during reviews shall be gathered online, hold at least three public hearings in three different locations, and they are to provide public notice of these meetings, as well as, public notice of any actions to “strengthen, amend or modify” the standards after these meetings are held.  The department shall submit a report summarizing its activities, findings and recommendations to the state board, the governor, and the general assembly by February 1, 2015 with this first review.
  • They are to submit an annual report to the Iowa Legislature by January 15th regarding the activities, findings, and student progress under the Iowa Core content standards and assessment standards.
  • This annual report shall include the department’s findings and recommendations, including, but not limited to recommendations relating to any proposal to amend or modify the Iowa core content standards and the assessment standards adopted by the state board.  Any revision or modification made and adopted shall not be adopted by the director until this annual report is given either to the Iowa Legislature or until the Director of the Department of Education appears before the House and Senate Education Committees.
  • They stipulate that the state will not direct curriculum, text books, educational materials and instructional materials that those decisions are left to the local school districts and accredited non-public schools.
  • Regarding data, it directs the state to establish policies related to data security, it limits the type of data that can be collected, primarily academic, it directs the data to be kept confidential by the department and school district or accredited non-public school, unless ordered by court otherwise.
  • They are to report to the Legislature what kinds of data is currently being collected by November 1, 2014.
  • They say student data shall not be provided outside of the state unless it is necessary for a student transfer.
  • They are to notify the Legislature and governor of any changes required by federal reporting requirements.  The Department can not implement those changes until they report to the Legislature while they are in session or until the direct appears before the House and Senate Education Committees.
  • They stipulate that student data shall not be published by the department except in aggregate form.

What this bill does not do.

  • It does not repeal the Common Core State Standards.
  • It does not release Iowa from it’s agreement with Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
  • It does not give the Iowa Legislature final say over standards.
  • It doesn’t impact the type of curriculum offered to schools.  We understood it wasn’t the state mandating curriculum, rather it is market forces at play.  You have 45 states that have adopted the Common Core that drives the textbook and curriculum market.  The only way to provide real choice in curriculum is to not have national standards along with aligned assessments.

The best thing this bill does is requires the Department to halt any implementation of new standards or modifications until they’ve reported to the Iowa Legislature.  Representative Jorgensen told me yesterday that the Iowa Legislature could then act if they see fit through legislation or appropriations.  We didn’t have that before so that is a good step.  The bill does bring more transparency through public comment, the website that is supposed to give updated information, and public hearings.  We didn’t have that codified before either.  That is another additional step.  Also we have stronger language related to student data privacy than what is currently in the Iowa Code.  There will be greater transparency provided, and it is also good that the Department has to report to the Legislature before implementing any changes.  Also I have to wonder, I don’t know this for certain, if this doesn’t put the brakes on the Next Generation Science Standards from being adopted and implemented.  If so that is certainly a positive.

This is not a perfect bill.  The gold standard would be a full-out repeal.  This does have potential for some good.  There are some changes that I hope the Senate will consider in order to strengthen the bill:

  • The review language is too general.  The Legislature needs to address the review process, it leaves too much up to the Department of Education, and I don’t believe that is healthy since they’re the ones who pushed us down this road to begin with.  Strong review language like what I’ve seen in other states would include an independent review board.  That board would consist of specific types of people parents (who are not educators or administrators), business community, classroom instructors, content specialists from higher education institution, and general members of the community.
  • There are loopholes with in the student data language.  For instance on pg. 6, lines 30-32, it states a loophole with student data that it will be kept confidential “except as necessary to carry out duties and responsibilities of the state board or the department.”  Exactly what necessary duties would those be that it would require them to violate confidentiality?
  • pg. 7, lines 2-5, is just worthless since it states “the department shall establish and maintain a policy relating to the sharing, security, and confidentiality of student data in compliance with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act…”  FERPA has been gutted and should not be considered a benchmark.  They should remove any reference to FERPA from the bill.

Representative Jorgensen told me that he was trying to forward legislation that would have a chance at getting picked up in the Senate.  I understand that.  I registered undecided on the Bill in its original form as it frankly does not do any harm, especially since we did not have a repeal or roll back bill survive the funnel.  This bill has the opportunity to make a couple of key changes and if the Senate amends the bill to strengthen like I suggest it could be even better.

This isn’t the bill I would have liked to come away with after the legislative session, but it is the best bill we currently have.

About Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart founded Iowans for Local Control in 2012 which later merged with Iowa RestorEd. Shane also is the founder and editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Thoughts and the founder and president of 4:15 Communications, LLC, a social media & communications consulting/management firm.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Google +.

Comments

  1. Jan Woodman says:

    It too often seems to be “the best we could do to get anything done”; sorry the Legislature is not willing to take on the Dep’t of Ed. and help our kids and our society survive!!

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