Iowa task force recommends new state assessment
Members recommend the Legislature adopt Smarter Balanced assessments
Members of the Assessment Task Force today recommended that Iowa lawmakers adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments as Iowa’s new state test for public and accredited nonpublic schools starting with the 2016-17 school year.
The task force also made recommendations around preparing schools statewide to give online assessments, funding for professional development and assessment tools, and monitoring effectiveness of the assessments.
The Smarter Balanced assessments were developed by a consortium of states whose work was guided by the belief that a high-quality assessment system aligned to rigorous academic standards can improve teaching and learning and can help prepare students for success in college and career training.
Task force members cited several reasons they support the Smarter Balanced assessments, including the need for state test results that accurately reflect how students are progressing toward Iowa’s statewide expectations for what students should know and be able to do. The assessments’ online format also will generate valuable feedback about student progress that educators can use to refine their teaching approaches.
Today’s recommendation capped off more than a year of consensus-based work by the task force, made up of 21 Iowa education stakeholders representing teachers, school administrators, state and regional agencies and associations, and parents and business leaders. The task force will continue to work on a final report, which is due in January to the Legislature, to the State Board of Education and to Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck.
“I’m very inspired by the Iowans on this task force who came together around a challenging task and carried out a fair, transparent process that gave careful consideration to an issue that is very important to Iowa,” Buck said. “We are working as an education system to ensure every door of opportunity is open to all students, and a high-quality state assessment is one key component of that work. We must have an assessment that is closely aligned with our state standards, reflects what is taught in our classrooms, and moves us toward having students demonstrate high levels of knowledge and skills because that’s what’s expected in a global economy.”
Iowa students currently take the Iowa Assessments in grades 3-8 and 11 in math and reading to meet state and federal accountability laws. The Iowa Assessments are developed and administered by Iowa Testing Programs at the University of Iowa.
The Legislature previously mandated the Iowa Assessments for state and federal accountability purposes. However, the Legislature opened the door for a successor assessment in 2013 by creating the Assessment Task Force as part of House File 215, the landmark education reform bill.
The Assessment Task Force was charged with recommending an assessment for implementation by the 2016-17 school year that meets the following criteria:
- Aligns with the Iowa Core standards
- Accurately describes student achievement and growth for the purposes of accountability
- Provides valid, reliable and fair measures of student progress toward college or career readiness
- Must have been piloted in Iowa schools
Smarter Balanced represents an assessment system that includes tests for mandatory accountability purposes, as well as optional interim tests for classroom use. The assessments are aligned to the Iowa Core standards, measure higher-order skills instead of simple fact recall, and generate faster results. The assessments also will be computer adaptive, which means they present an individually tailored set of questions to students based on their responses. This approach is an improvement over traditional paper-and-pencil assessments because it gives teachers a more detailed picture of a student’s strengths and weaknesses.
Assessment Task Force members began their work in October 2013. Over the course of a year, the task force worked to gather information from test developers, to finalize assessment review criteria, to narrow a list of assessments that met the criteria, and to interview assessment developers.
The task force approved the following recommendations today:
- The task force recommends the Smarter Balanced assessment as a statewide assessment of student progress on a set of core academic indicators in mathematics and reading.
- The task force recommends the Legislature create a work group to study technology readiness, including technology required for accommodations (for students with disabilities), and create a plan for moving to statewide online administration of assessments.
- The task force recommends that appropriations be available to ensure professional development is provided to support the administration of the new assessments, use of new assessment data, and other related needs; professional development resources are available for use by any providers, teacher leaders, and users; and time is provided for educators to take part in professional development.
- The task force recommends that the state appropriate funds to provide all districts access to the full suite of Smarter Balanced assessment tools.
- The task force recommends that the state monitor the effectiveness of the new assessments, including ability to measure student progress toward college and career readiness.
For more information, visit the Assessment Task Force webpage.