Statewide education tests transition to online version

By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     What used to be known as the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS or ITEDS) are now known as the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP).

     The ITEDS used to involve timed tests where students meticulously filled in the little circles next to their multiple-choice answers. That concept has come and gone. Taking the ITEDS with paper and pencil will soon be a thing of the past.

     The new online tests will include hands-on components versus filling in the circles for your answer.

     Gretchen Kriegel, the Monticello School District’s curriculum director, outlined several changes to the ISASPs, including the biggest change of all: Electronic testing.

     Typically students in grades third through 11th take part in the ISASPs, which are conducted in early- to mid-April. This year, students will take the tests April 1-13.

     “We will begin to get the information out to parents within the next week or two,” warned Kriegel of the changes that lie ahead. “But first, we need to train the teachers.”

     Despite the frigid cold temperatures last week, teachers held a PD (professional development) day on Thursday, Jan. 31. Kriegel took that opportunity to introduce the staff to the new ISASPs.

     “The teachers took the practice tests and found them to be complex and more demanding than in the past,” warned Kriegel.

     The main changes between the Iowa Assessments (formerly the ITEDs) and the ISASPs include:

     • Social studies (facts) will no longer be tested

     Kriegel explained the social studies literacy standards will be embedded in reading and language arts.

     • Science will only be tested in grades 5, 8 and 10

     • Tests are no longer timed

     • The language arts and writing test will now include a written component, no multiple-choice answers.

     “Students will have to defend their answer with a written conclusion,” in reading and language arts explained.

     • Test-to-speech options are available for students in grades 6 through 10

     Kriegel said while the tests won’t be timed anymore, they do offer recommended administration time for the four categories: Reading, Language and Writing, Math, and Science.

     “There is still the option for paper and pencil,” said Kriegel for those schools still wanting to administer the test “the old fashioned way,” or for special accommodations. Forty percent of schools in Iowa still use the paper and pencil method. “But the idea is to phase it out so all schools give the tests online.”

     So why is the state looking to phase out the paper and pencil method and take it all online? Kriegel said it comes down to a decision by the legislature.

     “They decide what tests we use,” she explained. “Iowa has been in a state of flux with a new assessment system, wanting every student to succeed.”

     Kriegel said the old tests weren’t aligned with the state education standards. She explained that some of the questions asked of the students on the tests did not reflect what was taught in the classrooms.

     “Our kids are ahead here,” she said of the MCSD standards.

     One advantage to the new online ISASP is that the Monticello district has already been testing online when it comes to academic measures.

     “Standards Reference Reporting is aligned with what we’re teaching,” added Kriegel.

     And when it comes to siting text/evidence (constructed response), Kriegel said the MCSD students are already used to that as well. She feels the Monticello students will be well prepared for the online ISASPs.

     In order to take the ISASPs online, the district technology staff already ran tests on the district broadband to make sure it could withstand numerous students online at once. There were no issues.

     Another new feature to the ISASP are the addition of online practice tests. There are 12 questions per subject per practice test. This will not give students an idea of the questions, but how to navigate the website.

     As with anything offered online, are there measures in place to safeguard against cheating? Kriegel said once the student logs into the testing site, their laptop/tablet locks down, preventing them from accessing other websites while taking the test.

     “Once they log out (of the test), they regain access,” said Kriegel.

     Despite the electronic testing, Kriegel said the results won’t come back to the district any sooner than in the past. “We’re supposed to get the data back in September,” she said. “Eventually, they might be able to speed up the process.

     “The first year is always a challenge,” added Kriegel of the hiccups. “But the good news is this is everyone’s first year (online).”

     In the past, the MCSD, as compared to other schools in the Grant Wood AEA, has come out on top of the scoreboard. The 11th graders have topped the scores in reading and language arts, meth and science.

     “We’re typically above the average or at the top,” summarized Kriegel. “We hope that will continue.”

 

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