Issue Background

School Assessments and Accountability

Senate Republicans have introduced a nine-bill package dealing with assessments, evaluations and reporting for schools. Senate Bills 260-268 are all tie-barred together along with Senate Bills 56 and 57, which make changes to the teacher evaluation law. 
While the package contains issues MASB can support, there are others that raise concerns in both intent and implementation. To begin, we strongly oppose that these bills are tie-barred, meaning one can’t take effect without the others. We urge the Senate to break this tie-bar in order to move the timelier issues quickly and take the proper time to work on the others. 
To be clear, while MASB lists support for individual pieces of this package, we do not support the tie-bars and therefore oppose the bills as they are currently written. 
We encourage you to contact your state legislators to let them know how these bills will affect your district. 

Senate Republican’s Assessment and Accountability Package 

SBs 56, 57 and 260: Teacher and Administrator Evaluation 
Changes the teacher and administrator evaluation law including the categories of effectiveness, keeping the percentage of growth at 25% and, for this year only, removing the requirement that state assessment data be used to determine growth. It also updates the Teacher Tenure Act to reflect the new categories of effectiveness as ineffective, emerging or effective.  
MASB supports these bills and this is one of the timelier issues. As schools are headed toward the end of the year, many of these evaluations have already begun. We believe if changes are to be made, they need to be done quickly so districts can react and handle the evaluations properly.  

SBs 261 and 262: Assessment Waivers 
School Code and School Aid Act changes to remove the requirement that state summative assessments be given this year. A district could still choose to administer them. The SAT still must be offered and, if the College Board allows testing windows during the summer or fall, current 11th and12th graders must be given the option to take the test at that time. 
MASB appreciates the intent of these bills and supports them, however, we have concerns that they are coming too late to affect this year. The testing windows open April 13, 2021 and schools are already preparing to administer the tests. In order to waive the assessment requirement and make them optional this year, these bills needed to move very quickly. At this point, movement will not happen until the Legislature returns on April 13 and it will still have to clear both chambers. 

SB 263: CEPI and District Reporting Requirements 
Establishes new reporting requirements for districts and the Center for Educational Performance and Information. It would grant the Legislature complete access to CEPI’s data at the same level as the CEPI Director. It requires districts to report district, building and grade-level benchmark assessment results and classroom level student growth data and then CEPI to compile the information and report to the Legislature. 
MASB opposes this bill with numerous concerns. The increased detailed reporting for districts will put additional stress on already overworked staff. The detailed data requested runs the risk of identifying teachers and students, which is not allowed under federal privacy laws. Also, benchmark data is designed for use at the classroom level to drive instruction; it is not to be compared across the state. It is not necessary to put this additional work on district staff, diverting their attention from the work that needs to be done in classrooms. There are also concerns about privacy issues if the entire CEPI database is open to members of the Legislature in the same manner as the Director. 

SB 264: Statewide Assessment Commission 
Creates a new assessment improvement advisory committee to work on a request for proposals for a new statewide summative assessment. It then requires an ISD with a population of less than 40,000 and no more than 50,000 pupils to issue the request for proposal and pick a new provider by Nov. 1, 2021 with the new test being available by spring 2022. 
MASB opposes this bill as it is unnecessary. There are experts within the Department of Education to do this work. It inserts outside individuals and a specific vendor not involved with local districts into a conversation they may not be qualified to be in. Also, funneling the final decision, along with fiduciary and reporting responsibilities to an ISD, does not seem reasonable. The ISD would need to hire extra people just to do this work, increasing costs for the ISD and the state. It is not clear how the ISD will be chosen and if it would be able to handle the increased responsibilities while still maintaining services to their students and constituent districts. We believe that MDE should be tasked with this work. 

SB 265: Third Grade Reading 
Removes the retention requirements under the third grade reading law for this school year.  
MASB fully supports waiving the retention requirements for this year as students may not have received the same level of supports during the pandemic. In addition, studies show retention has a negative effect on students and we recommend removing the requirement completely. 

SB 266: Reporting to Parents 
Requires teachers to do written learning recovery plans for each student and send to the parent/guardian before the beginning of the next school year. Also requires the district to provide a written assessment summary that includes how the student performed this year and would have performed if not for the pandemic to each parent/guardian. 
While the goal of this bill is understandable, we do not think it is feasible and therefore oppose it. Districts would have less than a month once the bill is passed to comply with the written assessment summary for each of their students. Again, this is additional work and reporting on already overworked staff who are trying to finish out the school year. Also, it includes a statement requiring the district to determine where a student would be performing if there had not been a pandemic. This, at best, would be a guess and is not fair to any student or staff. Finally, the written recovery plan for each pupil a teacher taught this year to be compiled and shared with parents before the next school year is a burden on our teachers at a time they may be involved in summer programming and/or focusing on preparing to start the next school year.  

SB 267: Substitute Teachers 
Allows a district to use an employee as a substitute without a teaching certificate as long as the person gets a daily substitute permit from the department. This expires Aug. 31, 2021. 
MASB supports this bill as it gives flexibility and more options for substitutes as districts finish out the school year and look to summer school programs. We also support the sunset of Aug. 31, 2021 for this section. 

SB 268: Parental Retention Allowance 
Allows a parent/guardian to request their child be retained in his/her current grade. If the parent/guardian sends a written request by July 1, 2021, the district shall retain the student; if after July 1, the district has the option whether or not to retain.  
MASB opposes this bill due to concerns with the automatic nature of retention that this bill creates. Studies have shown that retention has negative impacts on students both academically and emotionally. While it may be okay in some cases, the decision should be done in consultation with the teachers and parents to ensure the best outcome for the student. We believe this bill should be changed to request a meeting regarding retention, not an automatic retention solely based on the parent’s request.