Wednesday, October 19, 2011

SAI Regional Workshop - Linda Fandel and the Iowa Blueprint

On October 19th I had the opportunity to attend a session sponsored by the School Administrators of Iowa that featured a discussion with Linda Fandel, Governor Branstad's Special Assistant on Education. Her discussion focused on the recently released blueprint for education in Iowa titled "One Unshakable Vision; World Class Schools for Iowa."

It was great to hear from Fandel and I was impressed that the goal of the conversation, and others like it that have been held around the state, seemed to be as much about getting input on the plan to use as it is edited and revised, as it was explaining and selling the plan. Fandel was clearly seeking input and it was clear that the plan has been and continues to be shaped by input from educators and stakeholders from around the state. As Fandel reported, approximately 58% of the state budget goes to education with 42% of it going specifically to PreK-12th grade education. This is an important and timely topic and needs to be addressed. We began with the conversation by watching the video you can see HERE.

Some interesting discussion took place with Fandel sharing the following points among others:
  • Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and Iowa Tests of Educational Development are being replaced with assessments from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to which Iowa belongs. The Smarter Balanced Assessment is computer based and individually adapting. It takes students through an ever increasing level of difficulty until students begin to miss questions. It then backs down and elevates again to find the student's level of proficiency. You can read more about the Smarter Balanced Consortium and Assessment HERE.
  • The original proposal for a high school graduation exit examination has been replaced with end of course assessments, most likely in Algebra I, Biology, English, and History/Government.
  • Other assessments include a third grade literacy assessment that could result in retention for students that are not able to read at a pre-determined level of proficiency. This is one of the most controversial parts of the plan. Fandel described how it was based on a plan that has been used in Florida. According to her it has shown to increase literacy significantly. She described how Florida third graders are now scoring above Iowa third graders on the reading portion of the NAEP test.
There certainly is a lot more to learn and discuss when it comes to the plan. For additional information there is a good FAQ page HERE. It was nice to feel that the document is still a living work in progress and it is great that the architects of the plan, like Fandel, Dr. Glass, Lt. Governor Reynolds, and others are seeking honest input and willing to amend the plan according to that input. I encourage everyone to read the plan, stay up to date as it changes, and be aware as it moves through the legislature this spring. It certainly will have a significant impact on education in our great state.