Teachers essential part of test development process at UI
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Jennifer Hartwig, an English teacher at Atlantic High School, provides feedback on the Iowa Assessments at the University of Iowa College of Education earlier this month. Photos by Mei-Ling Shaw Williams.
Jennifer Hartwig of Atlantic has been in education for 10 years, but a recent experience at the University of Iowa College of Education provided insight and clarity into part of her job.
Hartwig was one of dozens of Iowa teachers invited to Iowa City this month to provide feedback on the Iowa Assessments and other tests developed by Iowa Testing Programs (ITP).
Twenty-seven teachers attended a day-long session on June 16, and 30 more are attending today, Monday, June 23. Teachers break into subject area groups and go through the tests line by line discussing content, clarity, grammar, images, and more.
“I think it’s such a valuable process. Not only for Iowa Testing Programs, but for teachers as well,” she says.
The teacher feedback sessions are part of an on-going process to polish the tests, which are taken by 400,000 students in Iowa and upwards of 5 million nationwide. ITP is a research, development, and outreach unit in the UI College of Education. For more than 75 years, it has been recognized as one of the world’s best large-scale assessment and educational measurement programs.
Amy Blau, a fifth-grade teacher from Spencer, participated in a session last June and was invited back this year to act as a group facilitator. She says being part of the revision process made her realize that ITP wants to work together with teachers to create the best assessments they can.
“Teacher feedback helps keep the tests relevant to what’s actually happening in the classroom,” she says. “I know now that they do want to hear from me. I know my feedback will be valued.”
Teacher reviewers are called in each time ITP initiates a new development cycle. ITP leaders invite a diverse group, recruiting teachers from a variety of locations within the state, from small, medium, and large-sized districts, from urban and rural districts, as well as teachers with different ethnic backgrounds.
Garrett Hall, a science teacher at South East Polk High School in Pleasant Hill, says he was pleased to see teachers in his panel could provide feedback from different perspectives.
“Each of us has a different area of expertise,” he says, noting that teachers in his group came from middle schools, high schools, gifted education, and more.
Nan Kiel, an Orange City resident who teaches social studies at Bishop Heelan High School in Sioux City, says she enjoyed meeting other Iowa teachers through the process.
“It’s fun to learn about our differences and our commonalities,” she says.