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'Iowa Assessments' set to replace ITBS, ITED

Name change reflects evolution of testing methods, officials say

Seventh grader Cody Krchak listens to instructions from his teacher before starting the spelling section of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills at central City Middle School on Friday February 13, 2004 in Central City. (Gazette file photo)
Seventh grader Cody Krchak listens to instructions from his teacher before starting the spelling section of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills at central City Middle School on Friday February 13, 2004 in Central City. (Gazette file photo)

The Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and Iowa Tests of Educational Development will have several changes in the 2011-12 school year — beginning with the name.

“We are going out this year with new versions of our standardized tests, which will be referred to as the Iowa Assessments,” said Stephen Dunbar, director of the Iowa Testing Programs in the University of Iowa College of Education. “We won’t be using the term ITBS and ITED as we refer to these.”

The name change reflects how the assessments have evolved throughout the years, and the information and messages Iowa Testing Programs wants educators, parents and teachers to take from the results.

“In the context of all that, we felt it was appropriate at this point in time to signal some of that with a new name for the program,” Dunbar said.

But what does it mean?

The tests won’t look any different. Students will still need a No. 2 pencil to fill in the bubble. The content, though, has changed. The last time the program had a new version was the 2001-02 school year — a lag that is longer than normal, but made sense as the state was developing what is now the Iowa Core.

Then, in July 2010, Iowa’s State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards.

“We’re in a constant development cycle, but with those signs on the horizon, we said ‘Let’s watch,’” said Timothy Ansley of Iowa Testing Programs.

The math and English language arts assessments were written using the Common Core State Standards. The science assessment, as well as other tests in the program, were created with the Iowa Core as the target.

At this time, the Common Core State Standards only address English language arts and math. No Child Left Behind’s adequate yearly progress benchmarks focus on math, language arts and science.

“We’ve taken more of a systems approach from kindergarten through 12th grade, with more of an emphasis on tracking growth, and giving messages along the way to help students and educators prepare for the next step,” said Catherine Welch of Iowa Testing Programs. “A lot of our assessments alignment and standards-based interpretation will be part of the emphasis in some of the reports that will be provided.”

Those reports have been available in the past, but have been fine-tuned to give more detail related to the new standards. This information can be used to evaluate and inform instruction.

In addition to evaluating their performance against the Common Core State Standards, the new assessments also give students the opportunity to track College and Career Readiness.

“That is a new reporting feature,” Dunbar said. “From grade 6 on, because of research that we’ve done to connect performance on the (assessments) with ACT, we’ll actually be able to determine whether a student at a given point is what we call ‘on track’ to be ready for college.”

Students will be able to obtain an indicator in the four areas ACT, the college testing group, has established for college benchmarks — English, reading, math and science — and know if they are on track for the ACT exam in high school.

In addition to a new name, new content and new reports, Iowa Testing Programs continues to explore a new way to deliver the tests. Online tests have been piloted for end-of-course exams, but Welch said more research needs to be done before the Iowa Assessments can be more than a paper exam.

The online version of the Iowa Assessment is expected to be introduced in the fall of 2013.

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