Education Fact of the Week: 3/30/15

Education Fact of the Week: 

Assessment, Compliance and Learning


State Assessments

Education Committees in both chambers have each held two meetings to ask questions of the Assessment Task Force and potential assessment providers based on the Task Force Members recommendations. The Education Coalition is united in support of the Task Force recommendations for Smarter Balanced assessments, aligned to the Iowa Core, including a system of formative (interim) assessments and instructional tools. See the final report here:
2014-12-31 Iowa Assessment Task Force Report. The Coalition recognizes the power of timely information to improve instruction necessary to help all Iowa students succeed. 
Background:  Currently the Iowa tests provide a summative test at the end of the year which serves as Iowa’s reporting requirement for federal law and is a good picture of the performance of the whole system over time. School districts are in various stages of capacity in providing locally determined formative assessments which help identify student performance along the way. Teachers can analyze performance of individual students and their classes and change instruction based on what students need to know and be able to do. Using a medical analogy; formative assessment is a diagnostic tool, with a potential for treatment, based on what the diagnosis reveals. Summative assessment is an autopsy, with information delivered too late for changing instruction to meet individual student need.
Assessment Task Force Recommends Smarter Balanced Assessments: in HF 215, Education Reform of 2013, the Iowa Department of Education (DE) was required to convene this Task Force to study assessment options and make a recommendation to the legislature. From the Task Force Executive Summary:

“Comprised of practicing teachers and administrators, technical assistance and professional development providers, higher education, and one representative each from the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Business Council, and a parent, the Task Force met for just over a year to study the issues and opportunities around assessment and to deliberate what is best for Iowa’s children.”
Given the potential for an aligned assessment system with a real opportunity for improving student learning, the Task Force recommended, on a vote of 20:1, the Smarter Balanced assessment option, including the suite of formative assessments and digital library of instructional tools, for Iowa’s statewide assessment of student progress on a set of core academic indicators in math and reading. On a unanimous vote, they recommended that the Task Force be reconvened as soon as new science standards are approved by the state Board of Education and new assessments are available for review.
Additional Recommendations: all through unanimous vote, the Task Force Recommends:
  • Technology Readiness for Statewide Online Administration of Assessments: Recommend the Legislature create a work group to study technology readiness, including technology required for accommodations, and create a plan for moving to statewide online administration of assessments.
  • Funding for the New Assessments: Recommend the state appropriate funds to provide all districts access to the full suite of Smarter Balanced assessment tools.
  • Professional Development: Recommend that appropriations be available to ensure professional development is provided to support the administration of the new assessments, use of new assessment data, and other related needs; professional development resources are available for use by any providers, teacher leaders, and users; and time is provided for educators to take part in professional development.
  • Monitoring Effectiveness of the New Assessments: Recommend the state monitor the effectiveness of the new assessments, including its ability to measure student progress toward college and career readiness.

Costs and Other Comparisons:

The DE distributed a legislative brief at the two Education Committee meetings, which compared estimated costs and other critical comparisons that the Task Force reviewed that may also be critical for state-level decision makers. You can read the brief here.

Relationship to School Funding:

Assessment of student learning is one piece of the puzzle, a critical piece to gauge where students are individually, in comparison to other districts. It is only one piece of the puzzle, insufficient alone to make a meaningful difference if the whole system does not have necessary support.
Brought to you by the joint efforts of Iowa Association of School Boards, School Administrators of Iowa, Iowa Area Education Agencies, Iowa State Education Association, the Rural Schools Advocates of Iowa, and the Urban Education Network of Iowa in support of adequate and timely school funding. 

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