Iowa City Community School District begins conducting standardized testing in person

After a pause in Iowa’s annual statewide accountability assessment following a COVID-19 outbreak, Iowa City Community School District commenced Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress testing this week.


Jake Maish

A sign for the Iowa City Community School District is seen outside the district’s administration building on Tuesday, April 28. (Jake Maish/The Daily Iowan)

Grace Hamilton, News Reporter

Iowa City Community School District students in grades 3 – 11 — whether learning on-site or virtually — began taking the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress evaluations in person in district buildings on Monday, with the exception of students who are unable to test on-site.

First administered in the spring of 2019, the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress is an assessment grounded in Iowa CORE learning standards developed by Iowa Testing Programs at the University of Iowa.

According to the ISASP website homepage, the tests intend to measure student achievement and understanding of Iowa CORE Standards while also monitoring growth in these areas.

During a typical year, it’d be no surprise for students to take their assessments in a classroom. This spring, however, some Iowa City parents raised concerns about the district’s initial announcement that students learning online would return to school buildings to complete ISASP assessments.

In an email sent to families with children attending ICCSD virtually, the district laid out the ISASP testing schedule. Students would take the tests on a school-issued device at their resident school, the email said, and testing sites would follow COVID-19 procedures to allow for minimal interaction.

“Iowa’s preferred mode of testing is in-person. In order to meet state requirements, OLP students in Grades 3-11 will need to come to campus for ISASP testing during our designated testing window,” the email read. “Students will need to attend two to four consecutive days of testing. Testing will occur by grade level between April 19-May 14.”

Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Diane Schumacher wrote in a follow-up email on March 30 that although the Iowa Testing Program’s preferred test-taking method is on-site, a remote testing option would be available for families who think their child should test off-site.

Iowa City district parent Marsha Cheyney said although she worries social distancing may not be possible for students testing on-site, she knows the district is following Iowa Testing Program protocol.

“It’s not the end of the world. It really isn’t the [school district’s] fault. They are pretty much stuck with what the state allows,” Cheyney said. “I’m still not thrilled — I don’t think these tests are that important, especially since they will be doing them on computers anyway.”

This year’s ISASP testing arrangements have reminded Christie Cellman, another district parent, that her second-grade daughter will most likely take her first ISASP assessment next year in person.

Cellman and her daughter have facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, a disability Cellman said makes navigating the pandemic and decisions involving in-person arrangements especially challenging.

“My biggest concern is that they seemed to come back after receiving some backlash and revealed they suddenly wouldn’t make everyone test on-site and had a remote option available,” Cellman said. “My problem as a mother with a disability and a mother to a child with a disability, is that this entire process the last year has been a roller coaster. We were really shown that everything we’ve been told our whole lives that can’t happen happened for the sake of able-bodied people. And now that those things are not viewed as necessary in the eyes of some people, we feel segregated.”

Rebekah Tilley, a parent of four children in the Iowa City school district, said her children would be taking their ISASP assessments in person at school. However, she added that it’s important for families to assess COVID-19 risks according to their own circumstances.

“I feel like everything is a risk calculus these days. Our kids are learning in online school, but then we let our seventh grader go to track practice,” Tilley said. “We make a calculated risk about that, and then in a similar way, we made a risk calculus where we decided it was okay for them to go into school to take their tests. We feel like assessment is important and that they will do their best at the tests by being in the building.”