I was privileged to serve on this task force and to work with a group of knowledgeable and dedicated Iowans trying to make the best recommendations we could to the Iowa Legislature. It took a lot of time, by my count 74.5 hours of meetings, not including small group/subgroup work, but it was worth it as I found the whole experience to be very interesting. I plan to write a few posts about my task force experience now that our work, at least for now, is done.
Ultimately, I was not able to join in the task force’s recommendation that the Smarter Balanced assessments be adopted. The task force report includes a dissent written by yours truly which I have copied below to save you the trouble of turning to page twenty-two in the report to read it:
The Smarter Balanced Assessments are by far the costlier of the two assessment options in front of the Task Force. Whether the Smarter Balanced Assessments are worth the additional costs cannot be determined without quantifying all of the costs involved. This has not yet been done.
The information reviewed by the Task Force shows that the Smarter Balanced Assessments will take more than twice the amount of time to administer as the equivalent portion of the Next Generation Iowa Assessments and do not include a required science assessment. Science and social studies assessments can be added to the Next Generation Iowa Assessments for a total test administration time that is still 2 to 3.5 hours shorter than the Smarter Balanced Assessments alone.
The information reviewed by the Task Force shows that the Smarter Balanced Assessments will cost more per student, at an estimated $22.50 for the summative assessment only, and that those costs do not include a required science assessment. The Next Generation Iowa Assessments can include a science assessment for an estimated total cost to Iowa schools of $15 per student.
However, the Task Force lacks adequate information about the costs for school districts and the state to build and maintain the necessary school technology infrastructure to administer the Smarter Balanced Assessments. No comprehensive survey of the current state of school technology infrastructure has been conducted yet; consequently, these costs have not been quantified and are unknown at this time. The limited evidence in front of the Task Force suggests that these costs will be significant and ongoing. Even if the Legislature were to appropriate money for these costs, the appropriation would likely come at the cost of reduced supplemental state aid and thus would be in effect an unfunded mandate.
At the outset of our work, task force members agreed that our recommendations should be guided by what is best for Iowa’s children. Accountability testing is something we do for the adults, great instructional programming–including high quality art, music, world languages, and extra-curricular programs–is what we do for the children. Ultimately, it is best for Iowa’s children to obtain the accountability data required with the least impact on instructional programming possible. The Smarter Balanced Assessments divert more time and money from instruction than necessary for accountability purposes, and for these reasons, I respectfully dissent from the task force’s recommendation to adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessments. Based on the evidence currently in front of the Task Force, I would recommend adoption of the Next Generation Iowa Assessments instead.
Comments related to the task force, the report, or the recommendations are welcome here or on posts to follow in the next few days: