Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck welcomes some Iowa teachers to an annual luncheon in Altoona
Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck welcomes some Iowa teachers to an annual luncheon in Altoona

Iowa’s Assessment Task Force, created by the Iowa Legislature in the education reform bill in 2013 whose members were appointed by Governor Terry Branstad, has decided on a recommendation for a new assessment.

Drum roll please….

Oh yes!  Smarter Balanced.  I am so shocked!  You know the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium that Governor Branstad pulled Iowa out of?

I warned back in August that Iowa’s students could still end up taking Smarter Balanced as it was one of two options the task force, guided by the Iowa Department of Education, was still considering.  The task force meeting on November 4th voted 20 to 1 to recommend Smarter Balanced.

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.

The task force consists of 21 members made of mostly representing public education establishment, as well as, a token parent,  business leader, and representative from a private school. The task force’s final report 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 task force made the following recommendations on Tuesday.

  • 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.

What the Iowa Department of Education failed to announce in their press release is that Smarter Balanced will jack the cost of what taxpayers pay from $3.50 per student per assessment for the Iowa Assessments to $27.30 per student per assessment.  Not to mention many schools simply are not ready to handle online assessments because they either don’t have enough computers or, in some cases, don’t even have broadband access.

The Iowa Legislature will ultimately be the ones who will decide whether or not the state will adopt Smarter Balanced.

2 comments
  1. Okay, let me know if I am missing something. Iowa pulled out of using the Smarter Balanced assessment, spent a bunch of money and time to decide what to use instead, and concluded that they would go back to Smarter Balanced? And what a coincidence that this is announced 2 days after the election.

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