An academic ‘snapshot’

Marshalltown students slated to take Iowa Assessments examinations next week


Every year, students in Iowa take the standardized Iowa Assessments test, and there is information parents should know about the assessment.

“I think parents should know that it’s a once-a-year snapshot of how their student is performing in reading and math, and that it’s information that will be shared with them as soon as they become available to us at the school district,” said Marshalltown Schools Director of Instruction Dr. Lisa Stevenson, adding those results usually arrive around April.

She said the assessment is taken by students in grades 3-11, and that their results can be viewed from both a state and national perspective.

“There’s an Iowa percentile range and then there’s a national percentile range,” Stevenson said. “It’s a way for [parents] to measure if their child is growing from one year to the next, or if we need to have a conversation because their child needs acceleration or their child needs more intervention.”

With a wide range of age groups involved, Stevenson said there are some small differences in how the assessment is administered to students. All students use a pencil to fill in a lettered circle on an answer sheet to complete the test.

“They are pretty much the same; the only thing that would be different is the number of items the students are asked to complete, the number of minutes,” she said of how different age groups are tested.

For instance, testing is divided into different “parts” for younger students, while older students take only one math test and one reading test, Stevenson said.

As with any testing, Stevenson said it is best if students prepare ahead of taking the assessment.

“That is definitely still common practice, to recommend getting a good night’s sleep, getting to school on time, eating a healthy breakfast, bringing water,” she said. “I think anything that helps students feel well-rested and ready to take a test helps their performance.”

While a student’s performance on the assessment is often important to them and their families, Stevenson said it is also important to the district.

“While ‘No Child Left Behind’ has gone away, there are still expectations with the ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’, the ESSA, for performance on reading and math annual assessments at the state level,” she said. “We are still being held accountable for these results, and the most important thing that parents can relate to is the (Iowa Department of Education) State Report Card that comes out every December … the state is using the results of the reading and math test to grade or rank schools.”

Additionally, Stevenson said the current Iowa Assessments test does not match up well with the Iowa Core Standards that districts use to teach students.

“We’re still taking the same Iowa Assessments that were created … prior to the most recent version of the Iowa Core Standards,” she said. “We would definitely support a system that assesses our kids on the grade level and content and standards that they’re being taught, vs. an assessment that measures standards below their level, on their grade level and above their grade level, which is what the current assessment does.”

Stevenson said the assessment should be taken seriously by everyone in the community.

“From a parent’s perspective, there’s the ‘my child’ look of how it affects their child,” she said. “But, as a community, I think it’s important to remember, too, that how our kids perform on these assessments is then used to create our school’s report card, and that’s true [throughout] K-12.”


Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or