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Testing presentation highlights Board of Education meeting
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The Newton County Board of Education has recently requested permission from the Georgia Department of Education to use the Iowa Assessments from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt rather than the Georgia Milestones Assessment System. During a work session Tuesday evening, the board heard a presentation on the Iowa Assessments testing.

Dr. Allison Jordan, Director of Testing, Research, and Evaluation for Newton County Schools, welcomed and introduced a three member team representing Iowa Assessments.

In her introduction Dr. Jordan mentioned several advantages of Iowa Assessments compared to Georgia Milestones.

“Depending on the student and the subject being tested, we conservatively estimate that the Iowa Assessment saves 7-14 hours per single administration,” Jordan said. “That time is better spent on learning.”

She further reported that students have experienced no technical difficulties taking the Iowa Assessment. However, students taking Georgia Milestones tests have experienced problems, she said, including delays logging into the system and interruptions once they have logged in. Statewide 6.5 percent, and in Newton County 3 percent, of the students taking a Georgia Milestones test have experienced interruptions.

Finally, Dr. Jordan mentioned delays getting students’ Georgia Milestones scores. Victoria Driver, Product Manager for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, told the Board that “Iowa Assessments have a 10-day scoring turnaround for paper and pencil assessments and is even quicker with online tests.”

Dr. Stephen Dunbar, Director for Iowa Testing Programs at the University of Iowa and a co-author of the Iowa Assessments, presented the principles and goals behind their system, stating “We believe less testing can lead to more and better information if the assessment system is well-designed.”

“In testing of this sort,” he said, “we want sound, accurate tests that lead to actionable information that can be used by a variety of audiences for a variety of purposes. Such purposes include measuring student achievement, monitoring student growth in learning and college readiness, making comparisons between students or groups of students, informing decisions about teaching and learning, and meeting state and federal testing requirements.”

Board member Shakila Henderson-Baker asked “Do you ever see where testing will go back to measuring student growth rather than focusing on comparisons with other students?” Dr. Dunbar replied that “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 created a mindset of looking at how many students either achieved or did not achieve some standard as opposed to measuring students’ growth.” He agreed with Henderson-Baker that more emphasis on student growth is desirable, observing that “Students start in different places and learn at different rates. They also learn in spurts, just like they have physical growth spurts.”

Newton County School System will administer the Iowa Assessments this fall. Depending on the Georgia Department of Education’s decision whether or not to grant the Board’s request to use Iowa Assessments instead of the Georgia Milestones Assessment System, Newton County Schools will administer either the Iowa Assessments or the Milestones Assessment next spring.

Following the testing presentation, The Newton County Board of Education acted to approve:

• Hiring 24 new teachers and 21 new staff members.
• Ten transfers, one retirement, 15 resignations, and two terminations.
• Purchase computers and associated equipment for the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Program at a cost of $376,070.
• Renewal of the contract with K-12 Solutions Group, Commerce, Georgia for a student information system at an estimated cost of $148,143.

The Board received information on several items which will be acted on at future meetings. These included information on: grants to support 21st Century Community Learning Centers as well as renewal of a related contract with the Washington Street Community Center in Covington; renewal of a maintenance agreement for Aerohive Wireless Access Points; purchase of a maintenance program for Cisco Infrastructure Equipment; disposal of surplus equipment; purchase of “Handwriting Without Tears” to support the teaching and learning of print and cursive writing; a training plan for State required Board member training; and a resolution to support “The Georgia Vision Project for Public Education.”