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Iowa Assessment Task Force Recommends Smarter Balanced

A tidbit on the testing front in this election-news-heavy week: An Iowa task force has recommended that the state use the Smarter Balanced assessment in 2016-17.

In an interview with Education Week in August, state Department of Education Director Brad Buck said that a half-dozen assessment vendors had pitched their products to Iowa, but that the choice had boiled down to two: Smarter Balanced and Iowa's current test, the Iowa Assessments. Now the task force, created by the state legislature last year to size up the state's assessment choices, has thrown its weight behind Smarter Balanced.

As we reported to you in August, Iowa downgraded its membership in Smarter Balanced from a "governing" to "advisory" state while it looked for a test that was a good fit. EdWeek has reported, too, that Iowa is one of the states that plans to use a test other than PARCC or Smarter Balanced in 2014-15, even though it still maintains a consortium membership. It will be giving the Iowa Assessments this year, and will likely do so in 2015-16 as well, unless the legislature takes action to change that plan, Buck told me last summer.

The task force is scheduled to submit its recommendations to Buck, the legislature, and the state board of education by the end of the year.

According to The Gazette, task force members chose Smarter Balanced over the Iowa Assessments for 2016-17 because they felt it would better reflect the state's standards, and because its computer-adaptive format adjusts to students' skill levels.

Aware that many schools still lack sufficient technological capability to give online tests, the task force recommended that the legislature create a work group to study the issue and draft a plan to reach statewide readiness for the tests, according to a department of education press release. It also urged the legislature to make appropriate funding available to support professional development for the new tests.

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