Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise visits Woodbury Elementary in Marshalltown.
Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise visits Woodbury Elementary in Marshalltown.

Last week the Iowa Department of Education announced that the Iowa Department of Administrative Services issued an RFP on their behalf for a new statewide assessment in math, English language arts, and science. The assessment task force created to provide guidance on this chose Smarter Balanced Assessments over the Next Generation Iowa Assessments. The Iowa State Board of Education affirmed that decision. The Iowa Legislature in 2016 voted to delay the implementation of Smarter Balanced, and former Governor Terry Branstad issued a line-item veto for that since it was in an appropriations bill.

In January, Branstad decided to delay the assessments anyway, and the Iowa Legislature passed SF 240 that required the department to issue a new RFP by July 1.

“Having a statewide assessment that measures and reflects what’s being taught in Iowa classrooms is critical to improving teaching and student learning,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said. “We look forward to working with the Iowa Department of Administrative Services to run an equitable process that leads us to choose an assessment that is right for Iowa.”

Senate File 240 provided the requirements for the RFP’s criteria. The department will have to consider alignment with Iowa’s academic standards and federal law, its ability to measure student progress and proficiency, costs, the feasibility of implementation for school districts, the time required to administer the assessments, and infrastructure and technology needs in each bid submitted. Proposed assessments must be available in both paper-and-pencil and computer-based formats.

The department will accept bids through August 4, with a notice of intent to award expected in September. In the 2017-18 school year, Iowa students will take the current Iowa Assessments in reading, math, and science.

Unfortunately, due to the Every Student Succeeds Act, Iowa’s assessment will still align to the Common Core ELA and math standards. It will also require alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards that the state board of education adopted. As seen in other states that have broken away from either PARCC or Smarter Balanced consortiums, Iowa may still end up with an assessment vendor connected to Smarter Balanced. From a fiscal standpoint, Iowa will likely be in better shape than they would under Smarter Balanced however and should have more control over their assessment than they would in a multi-state consortium.

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