Saturday, February 23, 2013

House Passes Ed Reform Bill

After six hours of debate spanning two days, the House approved HF 215 on a party line vote. Over 20 amendments were offered to the bill but changes to the version approved earlier by the subcommittee were slight. A summary of the good, the bad and the ugly is listed below. There are several concerns for teachers. The Senate is expected to significantly alter the bill and the differences will be worked out in a conference committee.  


Summary of HF 215

The Good 

  • Requires the DE to develop a new statewide assessment of student achievement to be aligned with the core curriculum, administered in grades 3 – 11 and to have the appropriate rigor (IASB language)  
  • Requires the balanced use of student achievement data in teacher evaluation;
    - Eliminates the peer review process adopted into law last year;
  • Home rule for school districts;
  • Additional funding for schools identified as high need to help raise student achievement;
  • Pilot project for extended learning opportunities for students in low performing schools;
  • Competency Based Education task force to develop plan and timeline for taking CBE statewide;
  • Lowers the threshold for a district to request aid from the SBRC for transportation costs that exceed 70% of the state average (previously was 125%).

The Bad

  • Requires the DE to develop criteria and establish performance goals to evaluate each attendance center;
    - This provision was inserted at the last moment in the subcommittee process.
    - The DE is to submit its recommendations and report to the state board and the legislature by November 15, 2013;
  • Allows independent accreditation for nonpublic schools;
  • Eliminates state oversight of home school students;
  • Allows home school parents to teach children driver ed.

Mixed Bag

  • Expansion of online learning opportunities for students, BUT gives DE authority to charge fees to use online learning;
  • Certificate of Distinction Program for students who follow specific pathways; this provision is significantly modified from the original proposal for diploma seals;
  • Requires all job openings to be posted on a newly created DE state jobs board. IASB sees this as unnecessary, but it does not allow DE any authority to guide hiring decisions.
  • Requires annual evaluations of teachers and administrators. While not necessarily bad, IASB continues to stress that we need continuity and not continual change in how teachers and administrators are evaluated.
    - Some concerns with the lack of flexibility for districts to design their own evaluation process
  • Sets allowable growth rate at 2% for FY 2014, FY 2015. IASB is pleased with movement on AG but would prefer 4%.
  • Implements governor’s school finance proposal to freeze current funding mix and future growth to be delivered through “supplemental state aid."
    - Freezes property tax inequity into the system. IASB is concerned about loss of stability of future state payments if revenues decline.
    - Growth above current per-pupil amount does not include spending authority.
  • Raises base teacher pay to $32,000 (current law is $28,000).
    - Concern with financial impact on school districts if sufficient funding is not provided.
    -Appears that this figure includes TSS payments.
  • Establishes a career pathway for teachers with the promise of additional payments to teachers who participate.
    -Changes from original proposal provide districts more flexibility and option to participate

Other Provisions

  • Stipends to top students who commit to teach in Iowa for at least five years;
  • Student teaching year-long pilot project;
  • Residency year for new teachers with reduced teaching load and increased learning opportunities;
  • Teach Iowa Marketing & Public Outreach Initiative;

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