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Iowa Assessments results will provide valuable insight

April 18, 2012
By Jason Staker , Times-Republican

Before long Marshalltown Community School District students will receive the results of the Iowa Assessments. This is the first year for students to take these tests. Previously, students took the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) or the Iowa Tests of Educational Development (ITED). The Iowa Assessments are different from the ITBS/ITED in many ways, especially in how results are reported.

The Iowa Assessments will provide valuable information about the yearly academic growth of students. It will also provide strong indicators of college readiness. Student academic growth is monitored based on something called a "standard score". The National Standard Score, or NSS, describes performance on a continuum from kindergarten through high school. The continuum is based on scores from testing thousands of students and determining where students at certain grade levels fall within a range.

The achievement continuum connected with the Iowa Assessments is divided into three categories: Non Proficient, Proficient, and Advanced. Using these scores allows teachers, parents and students to track not only proficiency at a test time, but year-to-year growth.

The Iowa Assessments also include a National Percentile Ranking (NPR). This compares a student's score with others in the nation in the same grade who took the test at the same time of year. The NPR is based on a scale of 1 to 99, so if a third grade student receives an 75 that means the student did as well or better than 75 percent of other third graders in the nation taking the test at the same time.

In past years this NPR has been the more important score on the ITBS or ITED. With the switch to the new Iowa Assessments the NSS will be the more important indicator of student achievement, as it will be easier to track one student's growth year to year, instead of compared to other students.

The results from the Iowa Assessments will look different than what most parents will be familiar with from the ITBS and ITED and there's a reason for that they are different! The Iowa Assessments are different tests, with new and rewritten questions. To compare results on last year's ITBS and this year's Iowa Assessments would not provide an accurate comparison. To put it simply, it's comparing apples to oranges.

For more information about the Iowa Assessments visit


Jason Staker is director of communications for Marshalltown Community School District



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