Assembly education committee schedules public hearing for April 4

The Assembly Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on Thursday, April 4 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 417 North (GAR Hall) of the State Capitol.  The committee is chaired by state Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac, pictured) and is scheduled to take public testimony on three bills:

Assembly Bill 53 Relating to: pupil records.

By Representatives Born, Jagler, Plumer, Brooks, Novak, Thiesfeldt, Tusler and Vruwink; cosponsored by Senators Olsen and Darling.

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
Under current law, pupil records are generally confidential. One exception to 
this general rule applies to directory data. Directory data may be disclosed to any 
person if a public school notifies parents and guardians of the categories of pupil 
information the school has designated as directory data, informs parents and 
guardians of an opt out procedure for such disclosures, and provides sufficient time 
for parents and guardians to utilize the opt out procedure.
Under current law, the categories of pupil information included in the 
definition of “directory data” include the pupil’s name, address, telephone listing, 
date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized 
activities and sports, dates of attendance, photographs, weight and height as a 
member of an athletic team, degrees and awards received, and the school the pupil 
attended most recently. This bill adds the name of a pupil’s parents or guardians to 
the list of categories of pupil information that a public school may designate as 
directory data.

The WASB is generally supportive of this minor change; however, the state pupil records statute predates the federal law (FERPA) and the state definition of directory data is not aligned to federal law.  The differences between federal and state law can cause confusion and headaches for districts, which can include the need to consult with legal counsel.  We believe it is in need of being updated and view this as a missed opportunity as this bill would not address that larger issue.  We will be looking for lawmakers who may be interested in working with us to align state law with the federal law to resolve this issue.

Assembly Bill 54 Relating to: fire, tornado, and school safety drills for public and private schools.

By Representatives Born, Jagler, Plumer, Ballweg, Dittrich, Mursau, Novak, Pronschinske, Ramthun, Rohrkaste, Skowronski, Spiros, C. Taylor, Thiesfeldt and Vruwink; cosponsored by Senators Olsen, Bernier, Darling, Marklein, Kooyenga and L. Taylor.

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
Under current law, the person having direct charge of any public or private 
school must drill all pupils in what to do in the case of a fire, tornado, and school 
safety incident. Current law requires that these drills be conducted without previous 
warning. Under this bill, the person having direct charge of the public or private 
school may provide previous warning of any of these drills if he or she determines 
that providing previous warning of the drill is in the best interest of pupils attending 
the school.

The WASB is supportive of this bill based on local control/authority.  This change, which takes into account the best interest of the pupils, may be helpful to school officials in regard to students with emotional or other disabilities who may be unsettled by these drills.

Assembly Bill 67 Relating to: information on the school district and school accountability report.

By Representatives Kitchens, Thiesfeldt, Duchow, Hebl, Myers, Novak, Pope, Ramthun, Skowronski, Steffen and Vruwink; cosponsored by Senators Kooyenga, L. Taylor, Cowles and Olsen.

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
This bill requires the Department of Public Instruction to include in the annual 
school district and school accountability report, commonly referred to as school and 
school district report cards, the percentage of pupils participating in music, dance, 
drama, and visual arts. Under the bill, DPI must include this information for each 
high school and school district and must also include the statewide percentage of 
pupils participating in each subject. The bill specifies that this information may not 
be used to evaluate a school’s performance or school district’s improvement.

The WASB has a number of concerns with this bill, including that it would likely require additional data gathering and reporting by schools as well as modifications to student information systems.

  • Schools are already required to report to the DPI on various measures of student participation as part of the statutorily required school performance reports, which are not the same as school report cards.  (For example, for purposes of the school performance reports, schools are required to report on the percentage of pupils participating in extracurricular and community activities and advanced placement courses; the percentage of graduates enrolled in postsecondary educational programs; and percentage of graduates entering the workforce.) Reporting on participation in the “subjects” listed in the bill is not currently required.
  • Because the bill refers to students participating in “subjects”, the mandate appears to refer to academic classes or courses.  Under the bill, if a school does not offer a drama class, but offers opportunities for students to participate in drama productions as extracurricular or co-curricular activities, it is not clear whether the school could count this as “participation” on its school report card.
  • It is not clear how the bill would apply to elementary grades or whether any valuable information about “participation” at those grade levels would be generated by the reporting required by the bill.

The WASB also has concerns with efforts to add certain information to school report cards that could make a subset of school districts (particularly larger, higher revenue, higher socio-economic status districts) look better in comparison to other districts (particularly lower-revenue, lower enrollment school districts).  This is a particular concern where no explanation is provided to help parents or the community understand the information or put it in context.

While the WASB [per WASB Resolution 3.01 (c)] supports a strategy to meet local, state and national educational goals that includes a recognition that a “well-rounded education” includes courses, activities, and programming in subjects such as those referred to in the bill, and others, with the purpose of providing all students access to an enriched curriculum and educational experience, we think this bill requires clarification and modification.