Category Archives: snowday blogathon

Third Grade Reading

Last month The Gazette published Between the Lines, an article with reporting on Iowa’s third grade retention law by Andrew Phillips.

One of the hardest things for me to grasp is what exactly defines a proficient third grade reader.

In Iowa, it is a third grader who can meet or exceed the benchmark or cut scores on the universal screening assessment (not the Iowa Assessments or whatever end of year accountability assessment ends up being used). These benchmark or cut scores have been set based on a prediction that a child meeting at least that score will meet a proficiency cut score on a statewide assessment. Presumably these predictions are state specific, but that isn’t entirely clear.

Iowa’s current proficiency cut scores on the Iowa Assessments are equivalent to a 41st percentile rank in the 2000 national sample. So (possibly) an Iowa third grader is a proficient reader, for purposes of the retention law, if the third grader’s performance on the universal screening assessment predicts that the child would score in the 41st percentile or higher on the Iowa Assessments as compared to the 2000 national sample. That would explain the results reported in The Gazette article Almost one in four Iowa third-graders failed new reading tests, data show. [Consider what the retention numbers might look like pegged to proficiency cut scores on the Smarter Balanced assessments. Yikes.]

If that still seems a bit abstract (and perhaps, arbitrary), The Gazette offers a look at the fluency portion of the universal screening assessment in another article, Quiz: Are you smarter than a third grader? Note that the orange, blue, and green lines mark the words a third grader would have to read to or beyond to earn a passing score on the assessment in the fall, winter, and spring assessment periods.

FAST Fluency

Are you confident that a third grader only reaching the word “blue” should be headed for retention, while a third grader reaching the word “with” shouldn’t be? I’m not.

To be fair, I don’t see any claims to the effect that the cut scores on the universal screening assessments are valid for the purposes of determining retention in third grade. See here, here, and here. And yet, we are poised to use them for retention purposes anyway. Consider what that says about state-level education leadership in Iowa.

ADDED: Current Iowa benchmark scores on universal screening assessments.


EdCampIowa 2016

Registration is open for EdCampIowa, scheduled for Saturday, February 13, 2016 in five locations around the state: Epworth, Cedar Rapids, Storm Lake, Council Bluffs, and Ames.

Students, parents, board members, policymakers, and community members are invited to attend. Registration is free.

SBAC Adoption: A Few Links

It’s old news by now that the State Board of Education adopted rules to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments as the accountability assessments for Iowa.

News Coverage:

From Diane Ravitch: Iowa Goes Backward

Rules as proposed and rules as adopted. Note that the rules as adopted show an effective date of January 13, 2016. It’s not clear why this date was chosen, but apparently the DE is still looking at spring 2017 as the first administration of the Smarter Balanced assessments in Iowa.

Here’s the summary of the comments on the proposed rules provided to the State Board of Education:

A public hearing on the revisions to Chapter 12 was held on November 3, 2015. Seventeen persons attended the public hearing, and nine spoke at the hearing. Of those persons speaking, six supported the adoption of this rule, and three opposed its adoption.

Public comments were allowed until 4:30 p.m. on November 3, 2015. Twenty written public comments were received regarding this rule. Of those written comments, 13 supported the adoption of this rule, and six opposed its adoption. One individual expressed some concerns about the assessment developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, but did not articulate opposition to the Noticed rule.

In many cases, individuals spoke or wrote on their own behalf. In many other cases, individuals spoke or wrote on behalf of an organization. Those organizations formally expressing support for the adoption of this rule include the following: The School Administrators of Iowa; the Iowa Association of School Boards; the Urban Education Network of Iowa; the Rural School Advocates of Iowa; Reaching Higher Iowa; the Cedar Rapids Community School District; and the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. The only organization expressing opposition to adoption during the public comment period was the Iowa City Community School District.

Did you notice that the comment summary focused on numbers and not at all on the substance of comments in either opposition–or support, for that matter–of the proposed rules?

Guidance to districts from the DE: Assessment: Frequently Asked Questions and Assessment Talking Points.

SBAC Adoption: No Fiscal Impact

. . . to the state, that is, “but there is a fiscal impact to school districts by increasing expenditures an estimated $6.0 to $7.0 million.”

“[T]he total estimated cost for SBAC [for the 2016-2017 school year] is between $8.3 million and $9.3 million.” [Note that the DE provided just the low estimate number to the Legislature earlier this year.] Note that these cost estimates do not include the costs of science assessments, which are required by law but not included in the SBAC assessments, or the costs to districts for building and maintaining the technology infrastructure required to administer the SBAC assessments. These costs to districts are still unknown. The DE estimates districts may save some money by choosing to use SBAC interim and formative assessments in place of other district-selected assessments

But wait, there’s more. The intensive summer literacy program, which is part of the third grade retention law, also has no fiscal impact to the state, but, again, there is a fiscal impact for districts. The DE is estimating a first year cost to districts between $6.6 million and $9.9 million.

Before too long, all these millions are going to add up to real money for school districts. Question: will the benefits (if any) for students outweigh the costs?

ADDED: A few relevant links to The Gazette:

Legislative Update 2/25: Assessments

The first funnel deadline, March 6th, is just about a week-and-a-half away. The Assessment Task Force report was supposed to be presented to the House Education Committee this afternoon, but that presentation has been postponed, and it is still unclear what action, if any, the Iowa Legislature will take with regard to adopting an assessment for the 2016-2017 school year.

HF 269 by Staed (D-Linn) relating to academic indicators for students. This bill would add writing and social studies to the list of subjects (mathematics, reading, and science) required to be assessed. [Note: the Smarter Balanced assessments do not assess social studies or science.] [Subcomittee: Stanerson (R-Linn), Gassman (R-Winnebago), and Staed (D-Linn).]

HF 312 by Salmon (R-Black Hawk) and ten co-sponsors relating to statewide assessments of student progress administered by school districts for purposes of the core academic indicators. This bill would fix “the Iowa assessments developed by Iowa testing programs” as the statewide assessment of student progress on the core academic indicators. [Question: would this language allow for the Next Generation Iowa Assessments developed by ITP to be used?] This bill would also prohibit the State Board of Education and the DE from adopting, administering, or approving the administration of assessments developed by SBAC.

This bill would also strike the following subparagraphs:

  • 256.7(21)(b)(2) which expands the grades assessed on the core academic indicators to grades three through eleven for the school years beginning with 2016-2017 and includes some of the minimum legislative requirements used by the task force to evaluate assessments.
  • 256.7(21)(b)(3) which established the assessment task force, which recommended adoption of the Smarter Balanced assessments, and includes some of the other minimum legislative requirements used by the task force to evaluate assessments.
  • 256.7(21)(b)(4) which directed the State Board of Education, which also recommended adoption of the Smarter Balanced assessments, to submit recommendations to the Iowa Legislature about assessments.

[Subcommittee: Highfill (R-Polk), Forristall (R-Pottawattamie), and Winckler (D-Scott).]

HSB 172 proposed Committee on Education bill relating to a statewide assessment of student progress on the core academic indicators on the core academic indicators in mathematics, reading, and science administered by school districts. The entirety of the bill is a statement that it is the intent of the general assembly to address during the 2015 legislative session the administration by school districts of a statewide assessment of student progress which, in accordance with section 256.7, subsection 21, paragraph “b”, at a minimum assesses student progress on the core academic indicators in mathematics and reading in grades four, eight, and eleven, and the core academic indicators in science in grades eight and eleven. [Subcommittee: Forristall (R-Pottawattamie), Jorgensen (R-Woodbury), and Steckman (D-Cerro Gordo).]

This bill was recorded today and is scheduled for a subcommittee meeting at 8:00 am tomorrow (2/26). My best guess, for whatever that’s worth, is that at some point a strike and replace amendment will be offered for this bill, with the amendment containing language to adopt the Smarter Balanced assessments and perhaps other task force recommendations.

HSB 173 proposed Committee on Education bill relating to core content standards, assessments, and curricula relating to student academic progress, and to the collection of and access to student data. This bill changes “core curriculum”, “Iowa core curriculum” and “Iowa common core” to “Iowa core content standards”, and makes some other terminology changes. This bill clarifies that the Iowa core content standards shall not dictate curriculum or prescribe a particular method of instruction to school districts and accredited nonpublic schools. This bill makes use of the Iowa core content standards technical assistance and implementation strategies developed by the DE and AEAs by Iowa school districts voluntary rather than mandatory. This bill also directs the DE to establish data collection, data privacy, and data sharing policies for data relating to students. [Subcommittee: Jorgensen (R-Woodbury), Forristall (R-Pottawattamie), and Winckler (D-Scott).]

I don’t see any other bills related to assessment in either chamber, though I’m happy to be corrected if I have missed something.

Bottom-line, with eleven Republicans co-sponsoring the anti-SBAC bill, Smarter Balanced assessments won’t be adopted unless some Democrats in both the House and the Senate vote for it. Anyone have any idea where the Democrats stand on Smarter Balanced assessments?