Update 4/18/17: We apologize for the belated update on this bill. The Iowa House passed the amended version of HF 2235 on 3/21/18 by an 86 to 13 vote. Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law on 3/28/17 without comment.

Original 3/16/17: Both chambers of the Iowa Legislature in bipartisan fashion rejected the Iowa Department of Education’s choice for a statewide assessment in favor of one developed by the University of Iowa’s Iowa Testing Program. The Iowa Testing Programs developed and administered the Iowa Assessments (previously known as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills that was a standard for many schools nationwide for many years).

The Iowa House of Representatives passed HF 2235, the successor to HSB 578, on February 20th 95 to 3. The Iowa Senate passed an amended version of the bill on Tuesday 39 to 10.

Iowa is close to ending its years-long debate over statewide assessments.

In 2010, Iowa joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as a participating member and later as a governing member. The assessment was pilot-tested in several school districts, and the Iowa State Board of Education eventually approved the assessment even after the Joint Administrative Rules Committee unanimously dissented.

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 which they did.

In September, the Iowa Department of Education announced the winning bid was American Institutes for Research (AIR). Their assessment proposal called Independent College and Career Readiness Solution scored highest overall in a competitive-bidding process that followed criteria set by Iowa lawmakers in 2017 when Branstad signed Senate File 240 into law.

(See: Five Concerns With Iowa’s Winning Student Assessment Vendor)

Pearson filed a lawsuit against the Iowa Department of Administrative Services and Iowa Department of Education to halt the implementation of the state’s $31 million testing agreement with AIR. In their petition, Pearson argues that scoring of bids was riddled with “preferential treatment and bias.”

If the Senate version is passed into law would direct the state board of education to adopt rules specifying that the statewide assessment of student progress administered by school districts for purposes of the core academic indicators shall be the assessment developed by the Iowa testing program within the University of Iowa college of education and administered by the Iowa Testing Program’s designee.

Based on the amendment offered by State Senator Mark Lofgren (R-Muscatine) the assessment would also have to align to the Iowa Core “in both content and rigor.”

I would also have to “accurately describe student achievement and growth for purposes of the school, the school district, and state accountability systems; provide valid, reliable, and fair measures of student progress toward college or career readiness; and meet the summative assessment requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.”

The assessment would have to be offered in both pencil and paper and computer-based formats and include assessments in math, science, and English language arts including reading and writing. The assessment before it is adopted has to be peer-reviewed to make sure it meets the necessary criteria. The Iowa Testing Program is then required to make any adjustments needed as determined by the peer review.

In the Iowa House, State Representative Sandy Salmon (R-Janesville) floor-managed the bill. State Representative Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City) spoke in support as well. Watch the Iowa House floor debate below:

The only opposing votes in the Iowa House were State Representatives Chris Hall (D-Sioux City), Timothy Kacena (D-Sioux City), and Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City).

In the Iowa Senate, State Senator Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa) was the floor manager. Lofgren introduced the amendment which was adopted 49 to 0. State Senators Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames), Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines), and Rita Hart (D-Wheatland) spoke in opposition. Watch the Iowa Senate floor debate below:

The only opposing votes were State Senators Quirmbach, McCoy, Hart, Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines), Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant), Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls), Wally E. Horn (D-Cedar Rapids), Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines), William A. Dotzler, Jr. (D-Waterloo), and David Johnson (I-Ocheyedan).

The Iowa House will have to reconsider the bill since it has been amended.

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