A state task force assigned to review the assessments used to schools is recommending that the state adopt what are called the “Smarter Balanced” assessments. Iowa Department of Education spokesperson, Staci Hupp Ballard, says the assessments are used for public and accredited non-public schools, and the Smarter Balanced assessment was developed by a group of states.
She says those states, “Have the goal to ensure that all students — regardless of their background– leave high school prepared for success in college or career training. And the consortium belief is that a high-quality assessment system can raise student achievement largely by providing teachers and schools the information and tools that they need to improve teaching and learning.”
Ballard says the task force had several reasons for recommending the Smarter Balanced assessment. She says it is often referred to as “much more than a test,” and is considered more like a system, because it includes an annual test along with an optional classroom level tests that teachers can give to gauge student progress through the year. Ballard says administrators, teachers and other gave their input to the task force.
“When teachers talk about the advantages of Smarter Balance, it seems it’s much more than a test to them. It seems like it provides them helpful information to try to really pinpoint where a student is versus where a student is expected to be at a particular grade level,” Ballard says.
The next step will be in the hands of lawmakers. “From now through January, the task force will work on a final report to the legislature. There’s a meeting scheduled for December 10th, and ultimately lawmakers will be charged with deciding whether or not to go with this recommendation,” Ballard says. 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 Legislature opened the door for a new assessment process in 2013 by creating the Assessment Task Force.