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Academic Standards

Results of student assessments are used by all stakeholders to make program, staffing, professional development, instructional, financial, and personal decisions. They are an important component of both the Collecting/Analyzing Student data step and the Ongoing Data Collection step in the Iowa Professional Development Model. Statewide and district-wide summative assessments are mandated by Iowa Code (Chapter 12) and used for district accreditation and federal reporting, as defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) legislation. Formative assessments are ongoing and are used to inform the instructional process and develop student learning goals.

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  • Summative Assessment. Summative Assessments are assessments OF learning and are given at a point in time to measure and monitor student learning. They provide the feedback to educators, students, parents, and community members and are used to make adjustments in instructional programs, report student progress, identify and place students, and grade students.
  • Formative Assessment. Formative Assessment is assessment FOR learning. It is a process used by teachers and students as part of instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement of core content. Formative assessment practices provide students with clear learning targets, examples and models of strong and weak work, regular descriptive feedback, and the ability to self-assess, track learning, and set goals. (Adapted from Council of Chief State School Officers, FAST SCASS)
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Assessments and Accountability

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) legislation requires that states annually assess all students on achievement of grade-level, state-adopted standards in reading, mathematics, and science. To meet the requirements of the legislation, Iowa school districts and buildings must report assessment results for all students in reading and mathematics in Grades 3–8 and one grade in high school. In science, student results are reported in one grade each for elementary, middle school, and high school. No more than 1% of students with significant cognitive disabilities must also be assessed in reading, mathematics, and science using an alternate assessment. Students identified as English language learners (ELL) are additionally assessed in Grades K–12 on achievement of state-adopted English language proficiency standards.

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State and Federally Required Student Assessments

The Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) is the summative accountability assessment for all Iowa students that meets the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The test was developed by Iowa Testing Programs (ITP) at the University of Iowa as per the Iowa Legislature (HF 2235) and was first administered in the spring of 2019. The ISASP is aligned to the Iowa Core academic standards and accurately describes student achievement and growth.

Assessments will be administered in the following subjects and grade levels:

  • Mathematics: Grades 3–11
  • English-Language Arts, including reading and writing: Grades 3–11
  • Science: Grades 5, 8, and 10

Visit the ISASP website for more information.

To meet federal requirements, Iowa uses Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) for alternate assessments and English Language Proficiency Assessments for the 21st Century (ELPA21) for English language proficiency.

To meet state mandates, Iowa uses Teaching Strategies' GOLD to assess preschool. To meet Early Literacy Implementation (ELI) requirements for Grades K–3, districts select from a Department-approved assessment list. Districts must use Early Literacy Alternate Assessment (ELAA) to meet ELI requirements when assessing students with significant cognitive disabilities.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests are administered periodically to a representative sample of students in Grades 4 and 8 nationwide in math, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history. NAEP, known as the nation’s report card, is the only state-by-state comparison of student progress. Since the Fall 2003, all states have been required to participate. See Iowa NAEP Results.

Statewide Assessment Resources

The State of Iowa Test Security Manual and the Statewide Assessment System Accessibility Manual should be followed by all assessment stakeholders in Iowa. See the latest manuals and supporting resources below:

Reporting of Testing Incidents

A test administrator/proctor who has witnessed a testing incident should contact the school administrator and district assessment coordinator. Testing incidents and accommodation errors are reported by district assessment coordinators through the Testing Incident Reporting application available through the Iowa Education Portal. District Assessment Coordinators need an account and access to the reporting application within the portal. If the coordinator needs access to the portal and/or the reporting application, contact the district’s portal security officer.

Reporting Results

The Annual Condition of Education Report provides statewide demographic, curriculum, staffing, financial, and achievement data to help districts and policymakers evaluate the state's educational system and ensure it is meeting the needs of students and communities.

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Opting Out of Testing

The Iowa Department of Education receives requests from parents and others that students be “opted out” of statewide assessments, district-wide assessments, and other assessments of student performance. The law provides for no “opt out.”

  1. The law requires that all Iowa students be assessed. Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, Pub. L. No. 114-95 (hereinafter ESSA) each State shall demonstrate that it has a statewide accountability plan that takes into account the achievement of “all public elementary school and secondary school students.” ESSA, § 1111(b)(2)(A)(i), (b)(2)(C)(i), (ix) (emphasis added). The United States Department of Education has adopted rules implementing these statutory provisions. See, e.g., 34 C.F.R. §§ 200.2(b)(1), 200.6

    Similarly Iowa statute requires the State Board of Education to adopt rules regarding assessment of and reporting of student achievement. Iowa Code § 256.7(21). Pursuant to that statutory authority, the State Board promulgated a rule requiring “assessment of student progress for all students.” Iowa Admin. Code r. 281—12.8(1)(f) (emphasis added).

    The requirement in federal and state law to report participation rates on statewide assessments does not change the obligation imposed by the plain language of state and federal law to assess all children.

    The Iowa Code and implementing administrative rules also require all students be assessed in multiple other contexts. See, e.g., Iowa Code § 279.68 (early literacy statute); Iowa Admin. Code ch. 281—62.
  2. The law contains no provision for parents to opt children out of assessments. None of the statutes, regulations, and rules in state or federal law give the parents the authority to “opt” their children out of accountability assessments. They use the term “all”, and “all” as a statutory term “usually does not admit of an exception, addition or exclusion.” Consolidated Freightways Corp. v. Nicholas, 258 Iowa 115, 137 N.W.2d 900 (1965). The statutory scheme at issue conforms to this longstanding general rule.

    ESSA contains limited provisions that allow children to participate in different assessment activities, but those are narrowly drawn and do not amount to a parental “opt out.” See, e.g., 34 C.F.R. § 200.6. ESSA’s parental involvement provisions also do not contain a provision allowing for “opting out.” ESSA § 1118. Likewise, Iowa education law contains references to unilateral parent “opt outs,” which are conspicuously absent from the statutes on assessment. See, e.g., Iowa Code §§ 256.11(6)(a) (physical education, physical activity, or CPR course, if conflicts with religious belief); 279.50(5) (human growth and development instruction). In the absence of such a specific authorization of parents to opt children out of assessments, the Department lacks the authority to approve of granting such requests.
  3. Local school districts determine the consequences for withholding children from testing. Although the law requires all children to be assessed, the law also does not specify consequences for parents who withhold their children from assessment. In the absence of specific consequences spelled out in statute, the general rule of local control is followed: consequences for participating or not participating in required assessments are determined at the local level. The Department will not interfere in those local determinations if those are reasonable.
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