A New Era in Statewide Assessment

Back in 2013, the Iowa Legislature, and Governor Terry Branstad dedicated a great deal of time to passing education reform legislation.  Key aspects of the legislation introduced alternative career pathways for educators through Teacher Leadership and Compensation programming; the Iowa School Performance Profile website; and task forces to study teacher and administrator professional growth and evaluation frameworks, and a potential new statewide assessment of student achievement.

In August of 2013, I was working with Urbandale Community School District, and I was invited to serve as a member on the state assessment task force.  It was a great opportunity to work with amazing people from across our state who truly shared passion for doing what was best for Iowa students.

This brief history lesson is not the purpose for this blog, but I think it is important to provide a little context for where we are now, six years later.

This past spring Iowa students in grades 3 through 11 took the new Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress for the first time.  Iowa educators have been anxiously awaiting access to results from this first administration, and we expect to receive our results next week.  As the release of results has approached, the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa Testing Program, at the University of Iowa, have been sharing information with school administrators.  The graphic below is a snapshot of important information that will help educators, parents, and students understand results from the new tests.

The Iowa Department of Education has provided this fact sheet about the new Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP).

There are some key takeaways I hope everyone will keep in mind as we digest results from the first ISASP administration.

  1. A standardized test administered once a year is only one piece of a full body of evidence educators and parents should consider when evaluating students’ academic performance.  Results should be viewed interdependently with additional assessment results, and examples of student performance and work.  Whether a standardized test score is high, or low, overreacting to a single score is never in the best interest of a student.
  2. We will see overall scores across the state go down.  When our state introduced the Iowa Core Curriculum, and Next Generation Science Standards, the intent was to raise the bar in what we expected students to know, and be able to do.  Several research studies completed between 2012 and 2014 demonstrated that the old Iowa Assessment was not well-aligned to those new standards, and that a new, more highly-aligned assessment was needed.  The ISASP tests were developed and evaluated collaboratively by Iowa Testing Program and Iowa teachers.  More rigorous standards require a more rigorous test, and we will now have access to better-aligned results about what our students know and are able to do.
  3. Iowa schools and students will demonstrate growth in knowledge and skills in coming years.  This first administration is establishing a new baseline for schools across our state.  As a school district, we will examine our results for strengths and opportunities for improvement.  We will then do what we have always done, engage our educators in working collaboratively to provide Decorah students with a world-class education.

After we receive results, we will deploy additional communication and dissemination plans, and families will receive more building and/or grade specific communication on interpreting results.  If you have questions about the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress I would be happy to discuss the topic.  As a member of the initial task force, I have a great deal of background knowledge on the test, and how we got where we are today.  Once you receive results, if you have questions, I encourage you to reach out to your building principal, and they can assist you, or direct you to the appropriate person.

Thank you for your support and partnership!