Branstad Asks for Hold on Move to New Assessment Exams

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The plan to revamp student testing in Iowa is on hold, as Governor’s Branstad is asking the Department of Education to stop the move to “Smarter Balanced” exams…for now. The exams are aligned with the Iowa Core and were to be implemented next year.

It was more than two years ago that members of a legislatively created Assessment Task Force of Iowans recommended the Legislature adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessment exams. “Since then we`ve had a couple other options,” said Republican State Representative Walt Rogers, House District 60. “We`ve had some vendors that were also in the process that say that their test is also a good test that aligns with what we`re teaching and is something that is a lower cost,” said Rep. Rogers. Rogers is the Chair of the Education Committee in the Iowa House.“If there’s something that we can get at a lower cost at the same quality, we’re gonna look at that,” he said.

“To me it`s important that we take our time to make sure that when we put this assessment in place and nobody`s arguing that we need an assessment that`s aligned with our, with what we`re teaching our kids, but to do that in a way that doesn`t provide adequate funding, that puts an additional burden onto local school districts, I think it`s irresponsible to do that,” said Republican State Senator Amy Sinclair, Senate District 14. Sinclair is the Assistant Majority Leader and the Chair of the Education Committee in the Iowa Senate. Both republican lawmakers say the Smarter Balanced exams are simply too expensive and argue there are less expensive options that make more sense for Iowa.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Des Moines Public Schools says regardless of how this gets resolved, the state needs to come up with a new assessment. “Not only here in Des Moines, but every single school district in Iowa over the last few years has made the transition to the Iowa Core and the state and all of the individual school districts have spent you know what would add up to millions of dollars and countless time making that transition, which has been a good transition to make, but the problem is we have a state assessment that doesn`t match up with what`s being taught in the classroom today,” said Phil Roeder, Director of Communications & Public Affairs for Des Moines Public Schools. Roeder says sooner or later that change needs to be made because its something schools have been preparing for and expecting.

A statement from the Office of the Governor, said the following:

“The budget recommendations by Gov. Branstad fund statewide, math, reading and science assessments for FY ’19.  Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds are committed to assuring that statewide assessments are aligned with state academic standards.  However, the Governor’s Office understands some legislators have concerns about the selection process for the statewide math and reading test, so the Governor’s Office is asking the Iowa Department of Education to put implementation of that test on hold while policy makers consider whether to reopen the RFP.”

In September of 2015, Members of the State Board of Education gave several reasons why they support the Smarter Balanced Assessments, including the need to accurately measure how students have progressed in reaching expectations set by Iowa`s academic standards, which outline what students in kindergarten through 12th grade should know and be able to do in math, english-language arts, science, social studies and 21st century skills.

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