Education

Education board moves toward new standardized test

Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced exams could replace Iowa Assessments

(File Photo) New Cedar Rapids Community School District superintendent and former Iowa Department of Education director Dr. Brad Buck (second from right) shares a light moment as he meets with members of his top administration staff including his assistant Laurel Day (left) and deputy superintendent Mary Ellen Maske (right) at the Educational Leadership and Support Center in northwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, July 6, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
(File Photo) New Cedar Rapids Community School District superintendent and former Iowa Department of Education director Dr. Brad Buck (second from right) shares a light moment as he meets with members of his top administration staff including his assistant Laurel Day (left) and deputy superintendent Mary Ellen Maske (right) at the Educational Leadership and Support Center in northwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, July 6, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

The Iowa Board of Education took one of the first steps Thursday necessary to adopt a new state test, aligned to the Common Core, that would replace the Iowa Assessments exam students now take.

The board voted to move forward with the Smarter Balanced test, one of two exams selected by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 to assess students based on the Common Core State Standards.

The board did not vote to actually adopt the new test, said Staci Hupp, a spokeswoman for the Iowa education department. Rather, the vote directed the department to draft administrative rules for implementing the standards.

The department then expects to bring those proposed rules back to the board Sept. 17, Hupp said. A vote to approve the rules would start a public comment and legislative review process of up to 180 days.

The board then would decide whether to adopt the test. If it does, the Legislature’s administrative rules review committee would have a second chance to review it.

The Common Core standards and tests that align to them have become a political touchpoint, with many conservative politicians opposing them.

But Iowa already uses benchmarks for instruction based on the Common Core, called the Iowa Core, and the Smarter Balanced test would better align to those standards, educators have said.

Iowa law requires that schools implement a new state standardized test in spring 2017, Hupp said.

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The Smarter Balanced test would cost more than the Iowa Assessments exam, which is created by the Iowa Testing Programs at the University of Iowa.

Both tests are taken by students in grades 3-8 and 11.

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