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Iowa State Board of Education adopts proficiency recommendations for the new state test


This news story was published on September 12, 2019.
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DES MOINES – The State Board of Education today approved performance levels that determine how many students met expectations on Iowa’s new state test, the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP).

The board adopted performance levels based on a recommendation from a committee of Iowa educators and the test’s developer, Iowa Testing Programs at the University of Iowa. The recommendations were shared during Thursday’s board meeting, along with statewide test results based on the performance levels.

“Our students must be ready to meet the demands of the 21st century,” said Gov. Reynolds. “Iowa’s new state test introduces higher expectations and new measurements to better assess student progress as well as improve accountability in our education system. Partnering with educators and students, our state will continue to ensure access to STEM, computer science and work-based learning programs to better prepare our young people for their future success.”

“These recommendations are a testament to Iowa teachers who hold high expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said. “Having challenging statewide academic standards and a state test that better measures progress in meeting the standards will help prepare students for the demands of postsecondary education and the workforce,” Wise said.

ISASP replaced the former Iowa Assessments, with students taking the new tests for the first time in the spring. The English language arts and math tests were administered to students in grades 3 through 11, while science tests were given in grades 5, 8 and 10.

The new state test went beyond the traditional paper-pencil format and multiple-choice questions to include an online format and an assessment of student writing.

Student performance on the ISASP was scored at three levels: Advanced, Proficient and Not Yet Proficient.

A committee of 185 Iowa educators met in July and participated in a nationally recognized process to determine the recommended performance levels, which define the range of scores for each of the three performance levels. The process was led by Pearson, a vendor of Iowa Testing Programs.

The committee also reviewed the impact of the performance levels when applied to 2019 assessment results before recommending them to the State Board of Education.

On Thursday, board members reviewed the same “impact data,” which represent statewide proficiency rates for each grade level, subject area and subgroup of students, such as students from low-income backgrounds.

2018-19 Statewide Student Proficiency Rates

“This is a different, more challenging test that is better aligned with Iowa’s academic standards,” Wise said. “These results set a new baseline for future progress on the test. They should not be compared to results from previous years because the test is new and different.”

Results by school and school district will be available in October. Parents will receive individual student results from their schools.

Iowa’s academic standards and assessment complement other state education efforts and achievements, including:

  • The nation’s highest graduation rate (91 percent).
  • The nation’s most extensive teacher leadership system, which taps into the expertise of top teachers to strengthen teaching around them and raise student achievement. In 2018, Iowa saw a significant increase in school districts reporting they met student achievement goals.
  • A focus on connecting students with future careers through a statewide expansion of work-based learning opportunities, computer science instruction, career and technical education programs, and a statewide science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiative.
  • An early literacy screening system to catch and address reading problems in kindergarten through third-grade students early on. Since 2015, the share of students who met or surpassed benchmarks has climbed nearly 7 percentage points.
  • A school accountability system that includes a focus on postsecondary readiness and student engagement and safety in addition to student achievement and growth.

 “Iowa has the right roadmap in place to prepare all students for success in high school and beyond,” Wise said.

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