CONTACT: STEPHEN PRADARELLI
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0007; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Nov. 4, 2002
UI nets $638,000 grant to help Iowa schools with testing programs
Iowa is one of only two states in the country with no state-mandated testing
program. While school districts in Iowa can benefit from this autonomy, they
also must comply with myriad state and federal testing requirements -- or
risk losing federal funding.
The University of Iowa College of Education hopes soon to take some of the
uncertainty out of the compliance process. With a $638,000 grant obtained
from the Iowa Department of Education (IDE), the College of Education's Center
for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA) has launched the Iowa Technical Adequacy
Project, or ITAP. This statewide professional development program is designed
to train teams of educators from Iowa public (and some private) schools to
identify, understand and use criteria that lead to the development of technically
sound, district-wide assessment systems.
Iowa must show compliance by December 2003 with the federal 1994 Elementary
and Secondary Education Act, specifically with provisions dealing with the
quality of each district's assessments of reading and mathematics achievement.
"Although compliance was the impetus for the ITAP, we are looking at
this as an excellent opportunity to assist educators in learning the importance
of sound assessment practices," said Kris Waltman, Ph.D., associate director
of the CEA and project director. "Our goal is to help educators make
good instructional decisions based on sound information about achievement
in their schools."
Training will begin in January, when the CEA launches a series of four sessions
over the Iowa Communications Network, or ICN. Accompanying these sessions
will be instructional lessons offered over the Internet and two face-to-face
workshops that will be repeated in 12 locations throughout the state.
Of the 370 or so public school districts in Iowa, approximately 331 have
signed up through the IDE to undergo training. Teams will be composed of between
two and four educators drawn from among school administrators, teachers, guidance
counselors, other educators and area education agency representatives. In
all about 1,200 educators are expected to take part in ITAP.
"In Iowa, there has been a long tradition of leaving control over local
education to local entities," said Waltman, "and ITAP has no intention
of changing that." Even though most school districts administer the nationally
renowned Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and Iowa Tests of Educational Development
(tests developed at The University of Iowa) schools must also administer additional
district-wide achievement tests. These additional assessments can be either
commercially available or developed by the districts themselves.
"Under this grant, we're not encouraging the use of a certain type
of test," Waltman said. "We simply want to make sure that the specific
tests used by a district meet criteria for being technically sound."
The ITAP marks a new focus for the Center for Evaluation and Assessment,
created in 1992 to conduct higher education outcomes assessments and evaluations
of human services, educational, and other programs. Now a unit in the College
of Education that reports directly to Dean Sandra Bowman Damico, the CEA receives
external funding through grants and contracts to evaluate programs in schools
and other organizations. According to CEA Director Donald Yarbrough, other
recent projects include national field trials of the Student Evaluation Standards;
research on how to evaluate standards; and program evaluations for the Washington
Community School District and various departments at the University of Iowa.
More information about the CEA is available at http://www.uiowa.edu/~cea/.
Information about ITAP can be found at http://projects.education.uiowa.edu/itap/index.html