Iowa City school district students continue to perform well nationally on tests

But results hard to compare because tests have changed

Iowa City school district students continue to perform well on standardized tests when compared with other students nationwide, but the results do not look as impressive as in the past.

Thatís partly because the test has changed.

The district on Thursday released the results from the Iowa Assessments, which were given to students in grades three through 11 last October.

This is the first school year the Iowa Assessments were given; they are revised versions of the old Iowa Test of Basic Skills and Iowa Tests of Educational Development. Students were tested in reading, writing, vocabulary, math, social studies and science.

The district was in the top half of percentile rankings in all grades and categories except for fourth- and fifth-grade math computation (43rd and 48th percentile, respectively). But the percentile rankings were not as high as in the past.

In previous years, the districtís rankings generally ranged from a low in the 70s to into the 90s. This year, the district was mostly in the 50s to 70s.

Pam Ehly, the district's director of curriculum, said test officials explained that there are a couple of reasons for that.

First, itís a new test with new questions. Also, itís a normative assessment, in which test takers are compared with other test takers, and the responses have been re-normed. The district was told student achievement has improved nationwide, and as the nation catches up with the high-achieving Iowa City school district, the comparison group changes, Ehly said.

An analogy, she said, is a champion sprinter who continues to improve his time but over the years other competitors improve their times more and catch up.

Asked why Iowa City school district students didnít improve at as fast of a rate, Ehly said: ďPart of the reason is, we didnít have as far to go. They (Iowa City students) were already high.Ē

Ehly and Superintendent Stephen Murley said they are pleased with the districtís overall results. Murley said he views the test scores as a snapshot in time and, taken with other indicators, Iowa City school district students are doing well.

They also said parents and the public need to remember that these results cannot be compared with previous ones.One thing that has stayed the same, however, is that the districtís students continue to improve their national standing as they enter higher grades, with the gap with their peers increasing in high school. Ehly said this is an indication that the longer students stay in the district, the stronger their learning gets.

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