True story: when I was a kid, I liked taking the Iowa Tests. I looked forward to them, loved everything about them: the bubble answer sheets, the #2 pencils, the vocabulary section--all of it. I was a weird, weird kid.
Not much has changed now that I am an adult. Still weird, still like tests. And I wanted to devote some time this month giving you advance notice that the Iowa Tests (love them or hate them) are going away. As a matter of fact, this is probably the last year our students will take them.
Instead, a new test is required called Smarter Balanced. The designers of this assessment say that it will provide better information for teachers and parents, because teachers can check students’ progress throughout the year, and end-of-year tests measure what students know and how much they’ve improved.
They also say that using computer adaptive technology, the tests are customized to every student. When a student answers correctly, the next question will be harder, and a wrong answer will lead to an easier question. This format lets students show what they know.
So far it sounds just like the MAP tests we administer two to three times a year, right? But while it's close, it's not quite a MAP test, and while the end-of-year tests sound like Iowa Tests, it's not quite that either.
And that's because of the third component: Students take the test online and must research, write, and solve problems. These questions measure the critical thinking skills students need for college and careers.Here is where these tests become very different from MAP or Iowa Tests. The Smarter Balanced assessments will take longer than students are used to, because they demand higher levels of thinking. Scheduling them will be different, because they take time to complete. As with many changes, there will be some discomfort. Eventually, the weird kids like me who enjoyed testing themselves against an assessment to see how well they can do will grow to look forward to these new Smarter Balanced challenges, as well. And this will become the new normal.