The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

October 18, 2013

Hey feds: Hands off Iowa schools

(Continued)

Assessments are the tests students take to determine how well they are doing in school and, at a larger level, how well districts are doing teaching them. A federal law said half of all students had to pass the exam. Now 100 percent of students have to pass the exam. If not, the federal government punishes the district.

"The State of Iowa, not the federal government ... shall choose the statewide assessments that will measure how well students have mastered the Iowa Core. School districts may also choose to use additional assessments to measure student academic progress," the order states.

That sounds good at first, Eidahl said, but there's a worry: A popular test for student (and government) assessment has been the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. More and more districts are moving away from that Iowa test. Could it be that the state doesn't like schools looking to do business outside Iowa, Eidahl wondered.

"As we align to the Iowa core, we have an assessment that doesn't align," he said. "All the states adapting to common core are going to Smarter Balance [tests]. Several of our elementary schools were selected to pilot that test. It's not just regurgitation of facts. Are students able to analyze? Infer? Comprehend? It's a more complex curriculum, and this is a more complex assessment."

So Eidahl is in "wait and see" mode to find out if state law will mandate the ITBS. And if it does, will the ITBS adjust to be more on target?

"The Iowa Test [company] in Iowa City would stand to lose a lot of money if we change tests, but right now, it is not a good test," Eidahl said. "The old test hasn't kept up with the new expectations. We don't just use these tests as an assessment for students, but also, for ourselves as educators, to evaluate our own work."

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