Category Archives: assessment

Smarter Balanced Assessments in Iowa Update

Since my last post on Smarter Balanced assessments, the two legislative funnel deadlines have passed and an assessment bill, SF 240, has survived.

SF 240, as amended and passed by the Iowa Senate, would strike subparagraphs (2) and (3) of Iowa Code 256.7(21)(b), which are the paragraphs creating new assessment requirements and authorizing the Assessment Task Force. It would also amend subparagraph (1) to allow the State Board of Education to approve a new assessment for the school year beginning July 1, 2018. It would also amend subparagraph (1) to change the required assessment grades to grades three through eleven for math and reading and grades five, eight and ten for science. The amended language also includes the requirement from subparagraph (2) that the statewide assessments be administered in the last quarter of the school year, but not the other requirements, which included alignment to the Iowa Core and valid, reliable, and fair measurement of student progress toward college or career readiness.

Some of the requirements from subparagraph (2) are included in section 3 of the bill, which outlines a request for proposal (RFP) process for a new assessment to be conducted by the Iowa Department of Education. Section 3 also outlines how the Department of Education must evaluate RFP responses.

The Legislative Services Agency has issued a fiscal note including a chart with estimated costs for the Smarter Balanced assessments, the Next Generation Iowa Assessments (with and without centralized scoring), and the ACT Aspire. A few things to note:

  • Districts are required to provide multiple measures (an additional assessment beyond the statewide assessment). The inclusion of multiple measures here helps to reduce the gap between the costs of the Smarter Balanced assessments and the other assessments.
  • The costs for the Next Generation Iowa Assessments and ACT Aspire already include a science assessment. Note that the cost for an additional science assessment exceeds the cost for the complete Next Generation Iowa Assessments.
  • I’m not certain if LSA is aware that ACT Aspire does not offer an exam for grade eleven students. If ACT Aspire were chosen, the ACT or another grade eleven assessment would be needed, the costs of which may not be accurately reflected here.

The Des Moines Register has published several articles recently about statewide assessments (links to the articles on the Press-Citizen website here, here, and here). In “Lawmakers take plan for statewide exam back to square one“, reporter Mackenzie Ryan describes the statewide assessments debate as “the slow-moving squabble over which test to use” and asserts that SF 240 could undo four years of work toward new statewide assessments. I would argue that SF 240 could undo almost seven years of work by the Department of Education to implement Smarter Balanced assessments in Iowa, though see Shane Vander Hart’s commentary on SF 240 at Truth in American Education (in short, don’t count Smarter Balanced assessments out just yet).

In a follow up article, State Board of Education member Mary Ellen Miller expressed frustration at the delays in implementing the Smarter Balanced assessments.

The Iowa Board of Education is so frustrated by the delay in adopting new state exams that at least one member called for ending the tests altogether.

Emphasizing her dissatisfaction, Mary Ellen Miller told the lieutenant governor Thursday that Iowa should “do something outrageous” and declare a moratorium on state testing. The move could save millions of dollars while nixing tests that are no longer relevant, she said.

“Political roadblocks” to implementation of the Smarter Balanced assessments were a foreseeable possible consequence of the decision of the State Board of Education to unilaterally move ahead with rules adopting the Smarter Balanced assessments after failing to convince the Iowa Legislature to take action.

Meanwhile, with the State Board having acted unilaterally to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments, the Department of Education Director Ryan Wise is now left to take great pains to assure that the RFP process will be fair to all vendors.

If passed into law, the Department of Education would seek test proposals. It would take steps to ensure that “people don’t point at the department (and say) ‘You were in the bag for X vendor from the beginning,'” said department director Ryan Wise.

“Our whole objective is to run a fair process,” Wise said, explaining that officials should expect it to be ‘heavily scrutinized.”

If SF 240 is passed without substantial amendment, I would expect RFP responses for ACT Aspire, the Next Generation Iowa Assessments, and Smarter Balanced assessments (with a proposed companion science assessment) to be submitted. See the Assessment Task Force’s evaluation of the math and English language arts portions of these exams here.

Smaller but not (yet) SmarterBalanced Government

In May 2016, explaining his veto of Section 18 and Section 19, subsection 5 of SF2323,  Governor Branstad had this to say about the Smarter Balanced assessments:

I am unable to approve the items designated as Section 18, and Section 19, subsection 5, in their entirety. These items unduly delay Iowa’s transition to a new statewide academic assessment system. The Iowa Department of Education can best serve students by moving forward immediately to prepare for implementation of the new assessment system on July 1, 2017. School administrators and teachers are eager for a new assessment system that is closely aligned with Iowa’s high state academic standards. By providing better information about students’ academic progress, the new assessment system will improve instruction. A well-aligned assessment is a key step toward providing a globally competitive education.

Interestingly, Governor Branstad referenced neither statewide assessments nor state academic standards when he delivered his 2017 Condition of the State address to the Iowa Legislature earlier this week. In addition, Governor Branstad declined to fund the Department of Education’s request for $10 million for LEA assessments in FY 2018 in his proposed budget, though he has proposed $6.1 million for LEA assessment in FY 2019. Thus, the Smarter Balanced assessments remain an unfunded mandate for the upcoming school year.

Meanwhile, Senator Sinclair (R-Wayne), new chair of the Senate Education Committee has wasted no time in addressing statewide assessments. On Tuesday, she filed SSB 1001, a proposed Committee on Education bill that would strike Iowa Code 256.7(21)(b)(2) and (3), which are the subparagraphs changing the statewide assessment requirements and creating the Assessment Task Force. The subcommittee met earlier today, with at least IASB organizing to advocate for aligned assessments–and presumably against the proposed bill.

As of today, the Iowa Association of School Boards, Rural School Advocates of Iowa, Urban Education Network of Iowa, and School Administrators of Iowa are registered against SSB 1001. Also registered against this bill is Reaching Higher Iowa (see here for Board of Directors and here for corporate sponsors).

The Iowa Catholic Conference, Professional Educators of Iowa, and ACT are registered for this bill.

Registered as undecided on the bill are Advocacy Strategies, the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund, the Iowa Department of Education, the Area Education Agencies of Iowa, the Board of Regents, the Iowa State Education Association, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and the Iowa Chamber Alliance.

Stay tuned. It could be an interesting legislative session for assessment.

Added (Rogers is the new chair of the House Education Committee):

Added: KCRG is reporting tonight that the Smarter Balanced assessments are officially on hold:

The state had planned to launch the Smarter Balanced assessments for the 2017-18 school year. Department of Education spokesperson Staci Hupp confirmed the department has been told to put that work on hold so the legislature can review options for assessments.

Added: Iowa House Republican Caucus Newsletter coverage of the Governor’s decision to put the Smarter Balanced Assessments on hold.

Implications of an Assessment Delay [updated]

The big assessment news yesterday is that the Iowa Legislature has finally taken action on statewide assessment through SF2323 (education appropriations bill). Whether or not the Senate concurs with the House amendment to suspend the rules adopted by the State Board of Education, both houses have agreed to language that would delay new assessments by one year, to the school year beginning July 1, 2017 (instead of the school year beginning July 1, 2016).

The most obvious question is what’s the test for the 2016-17 school year, but the subparagraph contains a number of other assessment changes that will be delayed as well (assuming no veto by the Governor).

Here’s the relevant portion of current Iowa Code section 256.7(21):

b. A set of core academic indicators in mathematics and reading in grades four, eight, and eleven, a set of core academic indicators in science in grades eight and eleven, and another set of core indicators that includes but is not limited to graduation rate, postsecondary education, and successful employment in Iowa.

(1) Annually, the department shall report state data for each indicator in the condition of education report. Rules adopted pursuant to this subsection shall specify that the approved district-wide assessment of student progress administered for purposes of the core academic indicators shall be the assessment utilized by school districts statewide in the school year beginning July 1, 2011, or a successor assessment administered by the same assessment provider.

(2) Notwithstanding subparagraph (1), for the school year beginning July 1, 2016, and each succeeding school year, the rules shall provide that all students enrolled in school districts in grades three through eleven shall be administered an assessment during the last quarter of the school year that at a minimum assesses the core academic indicators identified in this paragraph “b”; is aligned with the Iowa common core standards in both content and rigor; accurately describes student achievement and growth for purposes of the school, the school district, and state accountability systems; and provides valid, reliable, and fair measures of student progress toward college or career readiness.

The delay will also delay a change in state law requirements to test math and reading in grades 3-11 instead of grades 4, 8, and 11 (note federal law requires testing in grades 3-8 and 11).

It will also delay a change in state law requirements to test science in grades 3-11, instead of grades 8 and 11 (note federal law requires testing at least once in each of three grade spans).

It will also delay the requirement for statewide assessments to be administered in last quarter of the school year. And it will delay the additional alignment requirements.

Although it has received little attention, the Assessment Task Force made recommendations last month for ACT Aspire science to be used as the statewide science assessment starting in 2016-17, in grades 5, 8, and 10. [Smarter Balanced assessments do not include a science assessment.] These recommendations seem to be rendered, at least temporarily, obsolete by the delay, which should leave us assessing under the requirements of subparagraph (1) which references, in a roundabout way, the Iowa Assessments or successor assessment by the Iowa Testing Programs.

So, again assuming no veto, what’s the statewide assessment for the 2016-17 school year? It probably depends upon whether the Iowa Assessments are still an option (if anyone knows the answer, please share). My guess is, if the Iowa Assessments are an option, they would be the preferred option for a number of reasons, for example, relatively low costs and schools already know how to administer the tests and interpret the results.

If not, it would seem that the Next Generation of Iowa Assessments would be the only option that satisfies subparagraph (1). Question: if the Next Generation Iowa Assessments are administered statewide in the 2016-17 school year, how does that affect political support for administering the Smarter Balanced assessments/ACT Aspire science assessments in 2017-18?

Update: Matt Townsley shared with me an from Iowa Test Programs dated April 14th, confirming that the Iowa Assessments will be available for the 2016-17 school year:

Iowa Testing Programs (ITP) will continue to offer the Iowa Assessments in the 2016-17 school year.  We plan to support fall, midyear and spring testing and to maintain the current price of $4.25/student if schools opt to partner with ITP.   This price includes paper-based assessments in reading, mathematics, science, English, social studies, computation and other skills-based areas.  Online testing in all areas also remains an option.

Update on Smarter Balanced Assessments in Iowa [updated]

In November 2015, the Iowa State Board of Education adopted rules [IAC 281–12.8(1)(h)] to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments as the statewide assessments for Iowa beginning with the 2016-17 school year. In January 2016, the Administrative Rules Review Committee, through a unanimous vote, put a session delay on the Smarter Balanced assessments rules. A session delay means that the new rules did not go into effect in January, and instead, if the Legislature takes no action, will go into effect at the adjournment of the legislative session.

However, the Iowa Legislature appears to be taking action. Earlier this week, the Iowa Senate passed a one year delay of implementation of new statewide assessments in the education appropriations bill (SF2323 Division I, Section 6). [Note: Division I, Sections 12 and 13 of this bill contain provisions to delay the 3rd grade reading retention and summer school requirements one year, to May 1, 2018.]

This bill, SF2323, is now awaiting action in the Iowa House, where an amendment (H-8257) has been filed by Rep. Vander Linden (R-Mahaska) that, in addition to the one year delay, would nullify the rules adopted by the State Board of Education to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments. Nullification, or the legislative veto, does not require the signature of the Governor.

I am guessing that prospects for a delay of implementation of the Smarter Balanced assessments are good. The Iowa Legislature has not appropriated funding for the Smarter Balanced assessments and none of the amendments currently on file change Division I, Section 6 of SF2323.

Prospects for passage of H-8257 nullifying the rules are less clear. However, it does appear that the Smarter Balanced assessments are lacking strong support in the Iowa Senate, where twenty-four Senators co-sponsored SF 2040, a bill that would have struck 256.7(21)(b)(2) and (3) from the Iowa Code, which are the subparagraphs that create additional requirements for the statewide assessments and the assessment task force.

Stay tuned.

Update: SF2323 was debated tonight. H-8257 was amended by H-8272. H-8272 would suspend the rules adopting the Smarter Balanced assessments [IAC 281–12.8(1)(h)] until July 1, 2017. The amendment to the amendment was adopted by voice vote, then the amendment, as amended, was adopted by a voice vote. SF2323 as amended the Iowa House tonight on a vote of 52-41 and is headed back to the Iowa Senate.

In case you missed it, the Assessment Task Force made recommendations for statewide science assessment in March. The full report (minus the introduction) can be found here and should be available on the Assessment Task Force page after the introduction has been added.

If you want more of the history of Smarter Balanced assessments in Iowa prior to November 2015, see The Long and Winding Road to the Smarter Balanced Assessments or other posts tagged SmarterBalanced on this blog.

Added: I’ve had a chance to review the Senate floor debate. The delay language was added by amendment S-5145 by Schoenjahn (D-Fayette) and passed on a 50-0 vote. A similar amendment, S-5144 by Bowman (D-Jackson), containing delay language plus rule nullification language, was withdrawn. SF2323 passed the Senate the first time on a 27-23 vote. The Senate adjourned today (Friday, April 22nd) without taking up SF2323 as amended and passed by the House.

 

 

ATF: Report and Recommendations on Science

The Assessment Task Force wrapped up our review of statewide science assessment options March 11th, adopting five additional recommendations:

  • ACT Aspire science assessment to be used in the short-term (no longer than the 2019-20 school year), and administered once in each of three grade spans (3-5, 6-8, and 9-12). [One dissenter–not me this time–wrote a dissent, which is included at the end of the rationale section. In short, an objection to using an assessment not aligned to current standards, even for the short-term.]
  • Science assessments to be administered in grades 5, 8, and 10.
  • State to appropriate funds to pay for the statewide science assessments.
  • The Task Force to meet annually to review science assessment options.
  • The DE to pursue additional options for accessing a statewide science assessment aligned with the Iowa Science Standards (NGSS performance expectations). [I was the sole dissenting vote on this recommendation, but did not write a dissent this time. This recommendation seems overly broad, lacking any useful guidance–and potentially very expensive.]

The recommendations for assessing science in only three grade levels and for a state appropriation will require legislative action. For those tracking costs, ACT Aspire provided estimated costs for the science assessment only (rather than the complete ACT Aspire) of $8.00 per student (computer-based administration) or $13.00 per student (paper-and-pencil) plus an additional $1.20 for student score reports.

The ACT Aspire science assessment was the only currently operational assessment submitted for Task Force review. ACT Aspire does not offer an assessment for grade 11, so it isn’t clear what science assessment would be used for that grade level if the Legislature fails to act. The ACT exam is one, obvious option, but that would be expensive to add on top of administering the Smarter Balanced assessments to grade 11 students.

The Task Force report was presented to the State Board of Education yesterday, and is now available on the Assessment Task Force page. The introduction to the Task Force report, which was part of the report when approved by the Task Force, was omitted. I am still waiting to hear back, but hope the DE will be publishing an amended version of the report with the Introduction soon.

Update: The report has been removed from the Task Force page and will be reposted with the Introduction.

Update on Rules to Adopt SBAC in Iowa [updated]

In November 2015, the State Board of Education adopted rules to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments as the statewide assessment for Iowa beginning with the 2016-2017 school year. Today the Administrative Rules Review Committee apparently put a session delay on implementation of those rules [ARC 2312C]. ADDED: Find the minutes of the discussion here.

A session delay is one of the powers the Administrative Rules Review Committee may exercise over agency rulemaking:

The session delay. The ARRC may delay the effective date of a rule until the adjournment of the next session of the General Assembly. The committee refers the delayed rule to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. The rule is then forwarded to the appropriate standing committee for study and possible legislative action {§17A.8(10)}.

This means that the new rules will not be effective January 13, 2016. What action the Legislature will take, if any, to rescind or block these rules remains to be seen as Rep. Jorgensen, chair of the House Education Committee, appears to be supportive of the Smarter Balanced assessments. Still, this is an interesting turn of events.

Also of interest, given that the Governor’s office has been supportive of the Smarter Balanced assessments, is another power of the Iowa Legislature:

The legislative veto. Under the Iowa Constitution the General Assembly has an independent power to rescind any administrative rule The process known as nullification is identical to the enactment of a bill, requiring an absolute majority vote in each chamber, except that it does not require the signature of the Governor (Iowa Constitution, Art. III, section 40).

Update: I hear the vote was 10-0. Members of the Administrative Rules Review Committee are:

  • Rep. Pettengill, Chair (R-Benton)
  • Sen. Horn, Vice Chair (D-Linn)
  • Sen. Chelgren (R-Wapello)
  • Sen. Costello (R-Mills)
  • Sen. Courtney (D-Des Moines)
  • Sen. Jochum [President of the Iowa Senate](D-Dubuque)
  • Rep. Heddens (D-Story)
  • Rep. Jones (R-Clay)
  • Rep. Olson (D-Polk)
  • Rep. Vander Linden (R-Mahaska)

Smarter Balanced Assessments 39

I had no idea that Legislative Services did this sort of thing, but here’s a thirty-four minute Fiscal One-On-One interview with DE Deputy Director Dave Tilly on Smarter Balanced Assessments:

 

Topics include statewide technology readiness, data security, costs, assessment funding sources, and science assessment.

The DE is planning the following actions for implementing the Smarter Balanced Assessments in Iowa.

  • Technology audit
  • Request for Proposal
  • Professional development and communications activities

Look for these to get started once the rules process is completed with a final review of the rules by the Administrative Rules Review Committee in January 2016.