Two Versions of  Simon's Explanation of  Omnibus Bill

            Ray Simon’s explanation to the State Board on the Omnibus Bill was quite different from his explanation to both  Educational Committees.  In his presentation to the committees, he never mentioned  that the State Board could use all the sanctions, including consolidation, the first year a school is put in academic distress or on probation.   However, in his presentation to the State Board Simon said:  


    Approval of  the Rules and Regs. For the Omnibus Bill will be voted on by the State Board on August 11, 03. Ten pages of  Simon's presentation to State Board on June 9, 03, are posted on website.  From home page click Educational Issues and then look under Legislative Session 2003 and click  Omnibus Bill Act 1467- Transcript of  Ray Simon's Explanation to State Board  June 9, 03.  You can just click this link in blue as well.  We have highlighted in red  some of the things that concern us most.


            Here are some other remarks of  Simons at the State Board meeting  that some of  you will be  interested in: I have used red font for comments I make. 


            Simon: "It is a very sweeping act."

            Simon: "It [Act 1467] develops a single comprehensive testing, assessment, and accountability assessment – a single system –to replace a multiple system which we had in the past. …6.04, next page 11, we recommended here a norm referenced test to continue to be administered in grade 5 & 9 in mathematics and reading. …6.03 Here is where we begin to implement requirements of No Child Left Behind.  That is, we will have a criterion referenced test in all grades 3 through 8 and in high school end-of-course. 

 [This should be of  vital interest to those of  you who don't trust the benchmark test and who want a nationally normed referenced test to compare students with the rest of  the nation. There are no sanctions based on nationally normed tests so that test will be of no consequence.  Shouldn't the legislature at least require the SAT-9 in  one elementary grade, one middle school grade, and one high school grade for comparison.  As reported earlier, the cost of a  nationally normed test  is very minimal; and the benchmark test extremely expensive.]

Simon:  "The law is very specific.  It says you MAY  take this action the first year that a school is in fiscal or academic distress.  You SHALL  take one of these actions after two years unless there is some extraordinary circumstances.  I will refer you back to page 15, Section 11.03. There you re required to annex consolidate, or reconstitute the district unless there is an impossibility caused by external forces beyond the district’s control.  Now annex, consolidate, or reconstitute brings you back over to Section 14  and those are some of your options, primarily what reconstitution is,  remove the superintendent , remove the Board and then there is a CATCH ALL.  TAKE ANY OTHER ACTION." (Emphasis added)  [Would any sane individual agree to a contract with a CATCH ALL phrase in it so why should we with a law that affects every child in the state?]

The regs. on Act 1467 actually says the State Board can remove any particular school board member of a school district.  (I think that is on page 19, Section 25 dealing with  Accreditation.)

Simon: " I would also say these rules, the previous 3, the previous 2, Actions 2 & 3, and this one combined has nothing to do with size of school districts, there are no numbers here.  It strictly enforces the law that was cried for by many districts during the session - that is, let us meet standards. These are standards based rules and regulations.  You meet the standards, and you are okay.  If you don’t, you are in trouble. That is what the districts want, so I hope they realize this is what they wanted in that respect and to enter into any discussion of these rules and regulations with that framework in mindIt is a standards based set of  rules and regulations.

State Bord Member Luke Gordy:  We discussed – received quite a bit of discussion afterwards about our minimum requirements as for as 38units.   Everything we read; everything  we researched, everything the Blue Ribbon Committee looked at, the Board’s Advisory Committee working with this project said 38 units was insufficient as far as an enriched curriculum.  Why now, would we say 38 units is what we have as the minimum standards.  When we first started the discussion, this Board went on record saying we thought that was not sufficient for the minimum curriculum. [Again, it appears the legislators will need to nail down the credits if  they want the small schools to survive. This statement and the following two  show where the Board is on this matter.]

Simon:  Subsequent to that action of  the Board to put out for  public comment the 601/2 units the legislature was in Session and there was extreme anguish on the part of many of the districts and legislators about the aggressiveness of that language. This Board subsequently passed a resolution that said the Board would not pursue that until after the Adequacy Study was completed.  So we need to honor that commitment.  The  Adequacy Study is on plan now.  The professional judgment panels of  Arkansas educators and citizens have been selected, and they are going to meet Wednesday and Thursday of  this week to continue to work with that Adequacy Committee.  That report will be due September 1.  Once that report is in,  I think, Mr. Gordy, that would be an appropriate time for this Board to revisit its desire to do what it wanted to do initially or to take some other more moderate stance, but right now I think we should honor our resolution until after the Adequacy Study.

Gordy:  Thank you Mr. Simon. I did want to make that clear that at least personally this Board’s intention was not to continue with , hopefully, with  sub standard curriculum requirement.  We wanted to make it an enriched curriculum, and that Adequacy Study, from a time standpoint, we may be coming back and addressing this hopefully very quickly. [Again, it appears the legislators will need to nail down the credits if  they want the small schools to survive.]

            Simon:  "Also in the next section there in the next  paragraph,  the Technical Advisory Committee which we already have in place will  advise the Department in all technical aspects of  the assessment system.  It is very vital that we support our teachers and our students with tests that are defensible, both legally  and statistically.    To help us do that we have this Technical Advisory  Committee that constantly looks at these tests,  looks at feedback from the field when we give tests,  and teachers and administrators tell us things they believe need to be changed; and we always make those changes before we recommend them to you.     As a result of  this committee, we have made a number of  adjustments to make them more practical,  more user friendly, if  you will,  and  more acceptable to teachers and students."   [Simon  did not mention here that “the Director of Education shall select the Technical Advisory Committee composed of nationally-recognized testing experts and psychometricians” according to the written regulations  page 11 of  ACTAAP attachment,  Looks like this would rule out the legislature’s ability to bring in testing experts to evaluate the tests.  Shouldn't some provision for evaluation be made outside the person or department who designs the tests?  And I don't know any teacher or superintendent who was ever listened to about the tests.  It they were, it would be teachers and superintendents that totally agree with them.]

 Board Member Calvin King:  What are the new rules and regulations.  How does it affect those who are presently  on the distress list.  Is it a grandfather situation where automatically if  they are on the distress list for two years or so that then the board shall or would have the immediate responsibility regarding those schools?

Simon: "I think that the best answer again is that we are in unchartered territory here because we are in transition from a system where the definition of distress was one thing and the new system, the best we understand it now, nobody gets off the hook, but the two years starts when you must act – this coming year would be year one based on new information of the new system.  However, they have been placed here under a previous set of conditions; they are under distress; the Board MAY act in Year One.  But you are required to act, the clock wouldn’t start ticking on the required to act until next year, next year being year one based on new criteria.  In a way the clock starts ticking all over again for them in terms of the Board’s mandatory actions, but you don’t get relieved for your optional actions. 

Chairman of the Board: "It is good to have these things clarified for us .  I think when our legislature met this year one thing that was made plain to us is that we were not to let these schools continue on when we do have these options, to take care of them and it is good to reiterate the fact that we don’t have to  wait when there is a real problem and these children are not getting the education  that they should get."