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Testing in Iowa: An Overview

A GreatSchools guide to standardized tests

By GreatSchools Staff

Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2007-2008 Iowa used the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) to test students in grades 3 through 8 in reading and math and the Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED) to test students in grade 11 in reading and math. The tests are norm-referenced, which means they measure how well students in Iowa are performing compared to their peers nationwide.

How are the tests scored?

The ITBS and ITED tests measure performance through a percentile rank based on the scores of all students of the same grade level in the nation. Students who score at the 40th percentile are considered proficient. The goal is for all students to score at or above the 40th percentile.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

The results displayed in GreatSchools profiles are for accountability purposes and reflect the performance of students who have been enrolled for the full academic year. For each subject tested for grades 4, 8 and 11, the percentage of students scoring at or above the proficient level (the 40th percentile) is displayed.

Why do the tests matter?

ITBS and ITED results are important to schools in Iowa because the state uses them to determine schools' strengths and areas for improvement. Although test results alone are not used to make decisions regarding grade-level promotion or retention, low scores on standardized tests are one piece of evidence that might suggest the need for additional assistance.

It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall scores for her school. If your child scores below the standards, contact her teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home.

If the school's overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students and what you as a parent can do to help. If your child is in a failing school, ask what your options are for obtaining supplemental services or for transferring to a higher-performing school.

A few parting words

Although test results can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom, they don't tell you everything about the quality of a particular school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final assessment.

Search for Iowa Schools.

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