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Iowa Announces Withdrawal From Smarter Balanced Testing Group

Iowa says it's withdrawing from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, citing the need to design a test that is "the right fit for Iowa."

In a letter to the consortium dated July 29, reported yesterday by the blog Caffeinated Thoughts, Gov. Terry Branstad and schools chief Brad Buck noted that the Iowa legislature created a task force in 2013 to explore the state's assessment options. They said that the task force would "give careful consideration to all options."

But it appears that "all options" doesn't include Smarter Balanced, because Branstad and Buck asked the consortium to make Iowa's "withdrawal ... effective immediately" and to drop the state from its list of members.

Iowa's plan to use a test other than Smarter Balanced isn't a secret; We reported to you a couple months ago that despite its membership in Smarter Balanced, Iowa had opted to stick with its own test for 2015. Education Week's map of states' testing plans shows that while all but 15 belong to Smarter Balanced or PARCC, only half of the states actually plan to use those tests in 2015.

Smarter Balanced's map of members still includes Iowa, but presumably that will soon change, leaving SBAC with 21 state members.

Smarter Balanced, however, doesn't see the situation as quite that cut and dried. The consortium is aware that Iowa won't be using its test next year, but would not confirm that it has withdrawn from the group.

"We do not have confirmation of their plans regarding Smarter Balanced membership," spokeswoman Jacqueline King wrote in an email. She noted that states that aren't using the test but would still "like to stay engaged" in the consortium will have the option of being "affiliate members," she said.

UPDATE: Despite the letter, the Iowa Department of Education appears to be leaving open the possibility that the state will use Smarter Balanced tests. Spokeswoman Staci Hupp Ballard said in an email that "Smarter Balanced assessments are still under consideration by the state task force."

"Iowa is not staying on as a governing state, but will stay informed about the consortium's work," she wrote. "This is about respecting the Assessment Task Force's independence and ensuring an impartial process.

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