Smarter Balanced Assessments 5

Are the Smarter Balanced Assessments better assessments? (continued)

It has been quite some time since I last sharpened a pencil in anticipation of filling out an ITBS answer sheet.  So, for purposes of comparison, I thought it would be useful to take a look at the Iowa Testing Program (ITP).

As many know, the Iowa Assessments are currently used in Iowa for purposes of Annual Yearly Progress accountability.  The Iowa Assessments are based on the Iowa Core and the Common Core State Standards.  Iowa Assessments cost $3.50 per student in Iowa (compare to a projected cost of $19.81 per student for the summative Smarter Balanced Assessments which presumably doesn’t include the expense of technology upgrades and additional district IT staff).  [See answer to question 6]

ITP, however, offers more than just the Iowa Assessments (formerly known as ITBS and ITED):

Iowa Writing Assessments

For grades 3-12, the assessments include prompts for descriptive, expository, narrative, and persuasive writing.  The assessments can be administered in a single class period and are scored locally.

Constructed-Response Supplements to the Iowa Assessments

For grades 3-12:

Reading. The reading assessments are designed to measure students’ ability to understand and interpret what they read, and to communicate their analyses and conclusions in writing. At each test level, the reading assessment consists of an extended reading selection followed by 6 to 11 constructed-response questions. Students provide their answers in a few words or in a sentence or two.

Language Arts. The language assessments are designed to assess students’ written language skills. The assessments reflect the editing and revision stages of the writing process and the generation of ideas. The language assessments require students to demonstrate their proficiency in using the conventions of standard written English and their ability to apply generally accepted guidelines of effective writing. The assessments measure students’ written communication skills, with a particular focus on the development and organization of ideas and the application of the conventions of grammar, usage, and expression in contextual situations. Specifically, the language assessments present students with stories, reports, and letters, and allow them to demonstrate the following communication skills in context: identifying writing problems and rewriting clauses and sentences to improve clarity, writing original sentences appropriate to a function, and identifying and/or correcting spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and usage errors commonly made at a particular level of development.

Mathematics. The mathematics assessments are designed to assess students’ understanding of mathematical concepts and procedures; their ability to apply and integrate conceptual understanding and procedural knowledge in diverse contexts; and their ability to reason, solve problems, and communicate mathematically. The mathematics assessments consist of 10 to 17 open-ended exercises. Most exercises require students to explain their reasoning or justify their conclusions. Each exercise is presented individually or in a cluster that relates to a common data source presented in graphs, tables, or short paragraphs. The mathematics assessments require students to analyze and solve relevant problems, and to describe their thoughts and results using words, diagrams, graphs, symbols, calculations, and equations. The assessments also provide students with opportunities to: employ a variety of solution strategies to yield valid results, generate responses to problems that have more than one answer, establish and evaluate connections among mathematical concepts and procedures, and reason inductively, proportionally, spatially, and deductively. The specific mathematical content that provides the foundation for assessing these skills and abilities varies from grade to grade. Across grade levels, this content includes: number relationships, number systems and number theory, computation, estimation, patterns, functions, algebra, statistics, probability, geometry, measurement, and discrete mathematics.

These assessments are scored locally using an ITP scoring guide or locally developed criteria.

Iowa Interim Assessment in Mathematics

For grades 3-8, the interim assessment consists of three tests.  The tests are aligned to the Iowa Core and are available online and on-demand.  Each test has twenty items and is designed to be administered in twenty minutes or less.  It appears the results are available immediately upon the conclusion of each individual test.  After all three of the tests are completed, a report is generated about whether the student is on track towards proficiency and college-readiness.

ITP assessments might be missing the bells and whistles of computer adaptive testing and technology-enhanced items, but the collection of assessments taken together seem to offer a mix of selected, constructed, and extended response items that should otherwise compare well to the Smarter Balanced Assessments.