Protecting Educational Standards and Student Data

This week the House passed a bill with unanimous bipartisan support to address some of the controversy surrounding the Iowa Core and Common Core State Standards.  The bill provides greater transparency and opportunities for public input on the state’s education standards, prevents standards from being implemented without the legislature first seeing the proposed changes, reiterates local control of text books and curriculum, and provides greater protection of student data.

The Common Core, a set of education standards developed at the national level, has garnered significant interest across the country over the past year.  The topic is often controversial, with concerns about nationalization of education, the privacy of student data, the cost of related assessments, and the specific content inside the curriculum.

Iowa already adopted the Common Core into the state’s set of education standards, the Iowa Core, in 2010. Forty-four other states have adopted the Common Core, although several of these states have put the brakes on implementation.

Under House File 2439, the Iowa Department of Education and the State Board of Education are also directed to seek public input and suggestions to revise or amend these educational standards.  There are to be no less than three public meetings across the state to talk with concerned citizens and identify any opportunities or concerns, and to strengthen the standards.
Additionally, any future changes to the Iowa Core standards cannot be implemented until the proposed changes are brought before the legislature.

This new law also makes sure that curriculum, lesson plans, instructional methods, and text books are chosen at the local level and not chosen by the state or federal government, nor prescribed by the Iowa Core standards.

Finally, the bill provides additional protections for student data collected by districts and the state Department of Education. The Department of Education is directed to establish data collection, privacy, and sharing policies for students. The Department shall also inventory and report what student data is collected and the data’s purposes, while also crafting a detailed security plan that includes privacy standards, a data breach plan, data retention/destruction plans, and guidelines for authorizing parental access to student data.

Lastly, the Department must report annually to the legislature about what student data is collected, along with any changes made to existing data collections.  Along with this reporting, the Department must also get legislative approval for any new data collection not required by the federal government.

The bill, in the end, largely mirrors an executive order that Governor Branstad issued last fall.  The passage of this bill sends a strong message that the Governor and the House are committed to maintaining control of our standards and student data, not allowing the federal government to interfere with what we as Iowans choose for our students. 


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