New state assessments to be introduced to students in spring


In 1935, the “Iowa Test of Basic Skills” (ITBS) were first administered in Iowa. Students in grades six through eight completed the ITBS tests in subjects such as reading comprehension, spelling and mathematics. These assessments were state of the art. Continuing with level of excellence the “Iowa Tests of Educational Development” (ITED) were developed in 1942. They were first administered to students in grades nine through 12, and again in subjects such as reading comprehension and mathematics. Generations of Iowa students completed these tests and they quickly became recognized as nationally accepted standardized basic achievement tests across grades K-12.

Students across Iowa, the United States and other countries continued to complete these fill-in-the-bubble, number two pencil tests annually. Updates were made over the years, but the names (ITBS and ITED) remained the same, as did their purpose. The tests measured student academic achievement across a variety of subjects for multiple generations. Eventually in Iowa, they were also used for accountability purposes during the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era.

The next updated version of these assessments was called the “Iowa Assessments.” These tests were first administered in Iowa in 2011. Again, their purpose was to measure student achievement across a variety of subjects and grade levels and for NCLB accountability purposes.

The newest version of these tests, developed at Iowa Testing Programs, will be called the “Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress” (ISASP). These tests will be administered in Iowa starting in the spring of 2019. However, there are only a few similarities between the newest version and the later versions. If desired, students are still able to use a number two pencil when filling in the bubble answer sheets when testing in reading and math in grades 3-11, and science in grades five, eight, and ten.  However, this is where the similarities end.

There are many upgrades with these new tests. For instance, students will be able to complete all tests using a computer. In addition, a writing test will be added to these assessments in grades three through 11. Further, thanks to impressive improvements in scoring technology, all tests can be scored using technology, including the writing tests. The content of these tests will be aligned to current standards being taught across the state.

Additional improvements with these online tests include a variety of useful tools built into the computer operating system that will aid students when taking the tests. These tools will help students with special needs, English Learners, as well as all other students better demonstrate what they know and are able to do. Some of these tools include a text to speech option, built in highlighters, enlarged print, as well as some Spanish versions. More state of the art updates are scheduled in the future, such as an adaptive versions of the test.

In a few shorts months, current Iowa students will be the first to sit for the new ISASP assessments. However, at this time, there is still work to be done before Iowa students can use these tests to demonstrate what they know and are able to do.

In a few short years, these different versions of assessments (ITBS, ITED, IA, and ISASP) may serve Iowa students and educators for 100 years!  It is unlikely that any other state can make such a claim.

Dr. Jon McKenzie is the Director of Assessment & Comprehensive Improvement with Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA). He can be reached at jmckenzie@centralriversaea.org. Central Rivers AEA supports educators, parents, and the communities we serve as we work together toward one ultimate goal: to improve student learning. We provide support in the areas of quality classroom materials, curriculum planning, best practices in teaching and learning, safe and caring learning environment, appropriate educational opportunities for all learners, technology planning, professional learning, assessment, special education, leadership development, and more. Learn more at www.centralriversaea.org.