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As of today it appears that the Iowa Legislature will allow the Smarter Balanced Assessments, a Common Core-aligned assessment, to be an unfunded mandate on Iowa’s schools. The Iowa Legislature’s Education Appropriations Subcommittee after meeting today do not plan including funding for the Smarter Balanced Assessments in this year’s education appropriations bill.

This is not a surprise. The state of Iowa has never funded mandated standardized assessments.

The problem is that the current Iowa Assessments only cost school districts between $4.25-$6.25 per assessment per student. Smarter Balanced which the Iowa State Board of Education approved last fall will cost districts at minimum $22.50 per assessment per student for just the summative assessment in English language arts and math, and up to $27.30 if the school districts use the full suite of formative, interim and summative assessments.

This didn’t even include the new science assessment that will be needed with the Iowa State Board of Education approving the Next Generation Science Standards. The current estimate for that assessment is $15.00 per student per assessment.

The Iowa Assessments include English language arts, math and science.

So school districts are facing paying a minimum of 3 1/2 times more for assessments. Where is this money going to come from? When the science assessment is added schools at minimum will be paying 6 times more.

Additionally since this is a computer-adaptive test the test will be taken entirely online. Not every school is equipped to handle this. Some rural school districts still lack access to broadband internet. Many school districts lack both the number of computers and bandwidth required for all of their students (grades 3-8 and 11th grade) to take the assessments at the same time which would drag the assessment time out for schools causing a further disruption in classroom instruction.

Also, this assessment has not been properly validated, which is very important if we are to actually trust the results it provides.

Last December the Iowa Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee voted unanimously for a session delay of the administrative rule that would have allowed the Iowa State Board of Education’s decision to go into effect. If nothing is done this session that rule will automatically go into effect and schools will face this unfunded mandate.

It is imperative that Iowa Legislators follow the lead of Administrative Rules Committee and shoot down the rule and allow Iowa schools to continue to use the Iowa Assessments.

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