About Assessments

Iowa was initially a governing state with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a consortia aligned with the Common Core State Standards, as part of the Race to the Top program.   In July 2014 Governor Terry Branstad withdrew Iowa from the consortium after declining to sign a new memorandum of understanding with the consortia.  He, along with Iowa Department of Education Director Dr. Brad Buck, sent the consortium a letter stating’s Iowa’s intent to withdraw.

The MOU with Smarter Balanced that was originally signed by former Governor Chet Culver, and later affirmed by Branstad makes no mention of an expiration date.  Centers told Caffeinated Thoughts that it was his understanding the MOU did need to be renewed.  Caffeinated Thoughts has requested the formal request for a renewal by Smarter Balanced from the Iowa Department of Education and will update this article when it is made available.

The original document states the procedure for for withdrawing from the consortia:

  • A State requesting an exit from the Consortium must submit in writing their request and reasons for the exit request,
  • The written explanation must include the statutory or policy reasons for the exit,
  • The written request must be submitted to the Project Management Partners with the same signatures as required for the MOU,
  • The Executive Committee will act upon the request within a week of the request, and
  • Upon approval of the request, the Project Management Partner will then submit a change of membership to the USED for approval.

The letter lacked the signature of the President of the Iowa State Board of Education Charles C. Edwards, Jr.  Former State Board President and current member Rosie Hussey signed the letter requesting Iowa become a governing state in the consortia.  Hussey also signed the original MOU.  It appears that they strayed from what the original agreement states unless that language is null and void when the MOU expires.

The Iowa Assessment Task Force at their July 17th meeting voted to continue to explore two assessments – Smarter Balanced and the Next Generation Iowa Assessments.  The vendors, DRC for Smarter Balanced and the Iowa Testing Program for the Next Generation Iowa Assessments will be interviewed at the task force’s September 17th meeting.  The ACT Aspire assessment made it to the second round, but was dropped by the task force.

The task force will make its recommendation by January 1, 2015.  According to the Iowa Code the State Legislature will have to approve any change to the assessments that are mandated for Iowa’s public and accredited non-public schools.

While Iowa is withdrawing from the consortium, the state’s students could still end up taking the test.

As of the time of this writing Smarter Balanced still lists Iowa on their website as an advisory state.

United Opt-Out created guide explaining different assessments in Iowa and how you can opt-out that you can read below.

Iowa Opt Out Guide Final 8.8.2014

You can also download our opt-out form here.