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Iowa Schools to Use U Early Literacy and Reading Assessment Tools

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The University of Minnesota has signed an agreement with the Iowa Department of Education to provide universal screening and progress monitoring assessments for reading achievement from prekindergarten through grade six. As part of the agreement, two sets of assessment tools developed by U of M researchers, one for preschool programs and another for elementary grades, will be implemented by Iowa teachers statewide starting in the 2013-2014 academic school year.

These assessment tools will support the Department of Education’s statewide Response to Intervention (RtI) system, a process used for identifying the academic and behavioral supports that each student needs to be successful in school and to leave school ready for life. The process helps identify students who would benefit from more intensive evidence-based instruction and interventions matched to their needs, and monitors student progress to improve their educational systems.

Jean Quam, dean of the U of M’s College of Education and Human Development, says that the U is uniquely positioned to provide this particular set of services for the state of Iowa.

“For many years, the U of M has been leading the way in pre-K and elementary school assessment research and technology development,” said Quam. “We are excited to have the opportunity to partner with the state of Iowa and its educators through this agreement.”

Individual Growth and Development Indicators, or IGDIs, will be the preschool assessment tools to be implemented as part of the agreement. IGDIs are a set of brief measures of child language and early literacy, as well as web-based tools to help teachers monitor growth and development in preschool-aged children. IGDIs were developed by Educational Psychology Professor Scott McConnell and colleagues at the U of M’s Center for Early Education and Development.

The results of this research have been licensed to Early Learning Labs, a U of M startup company launched in 2012 to commercialize this work. Early Learning Labs includes these tools in their line of myIGDIs – a broader set of measures of preschool children’s development – and they will provide technical support for the project. To date, myIGDIs has been used in more than 11,000 school settings and has measured 180,000-plus preschool children across the United States.

McConnell is pleased to see this broader application of a research-based technology. “We see these tools as part of a long line of research on academic measures at the U of M, going back to Stan Deno’s development of curriculum-based measures in the 1980s. These measures were designed to be both rigorous and easy to use, in ways we hoped would speed their application in real-world settings. As a result, it is terrific to see that broad application happening in Iowa.”

Formative Assessment System for Teachers, or FAST, will be the kindergarten to sixth grade assessment system for reading. FAST assessments are web-based tools designed for educators to screen, analyze and monitor student performance in reading, mathematics and social emotional domains. These assessments are the product of decades of research at the U in curriculum-based measurement and computer adaptive testing. In its four years, approximately 300,000 students have used FAST assessments. Iowa will implement Adaptive ReadingTM, earlyReadingTM, and CBM-ReadingTM as part of its state-wide RtI literacy initiative.

As the director of FAST, Dr. Theodore Christ commented, “In addition to high quality technology-based assessments, a primary innovation of FAST is the online technology designed with teachers as the primary users. Assessments are often designed with little consideration to the needs and demands on teachers. We use technology and research to optimize the efficiency, acceptability and utility of teacher-friendly assessments.”

As part of the agreement, myIGDIs and FAST will be used to assess all preschool through grade six students throughout Iowa’s 346 school districts. On-site training and technical support will also be provided as part of the three-year contract.

“The most important thing we can do for students in Iowa is to help them become proficient readers,” said Michelle Hosp, director of the Iowa Reading Research Center. “We know that the best way to solve reading problems is to prevent them, and schools must have a valid and reliable early warning system to identify students who are on track in reading as well as those who are not progressing adequately. We’re thrilled to provide these high-quality universal screening and progress monitoring assessments to Iowa schools through our partnership with the U of M.”

Originally published on Business @ the U of M.

Erin Dennis

Erin Dennis

Erin is assistant communications director for the Office of the Vice President for Research.

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