Student writing

Written by Instructional Design Specialist David Stanfield

Each spring, schools all across the state of Iowa prepare to take the annual standardized assessment. This year, schools will be taking the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) from March 11 to May 3. In Marshalltown, schools will be administering the assessment from April 17 to May 3. All students in grades three through eleven will have an assessment in English language arts and math. Students in grades five, eight, and eleven will have an assessment in science. Each assessment is developed by the Iowa Testing Programs at the University of Iowa and aligned with the Iowa Core standards to provide indications of student growth, proficiency, and readiness.

Many adults will remember taking a similar assessment. Everyone had to have a number two pencil sharpened to perfection and a trustworthy eraser. A long answer key full of bubbles to carefully fill in was provided to each student with a warning that if a bubble was not filled just right, or a wrong type of pencil was used, there was a risk of answers being scored incorrectly. Students had to be cautious to use the correct part of the bubble sheet for the subject’s assessment they were taking. The temptation to make a design or picture out of the bubbles was hard to resist.

Today’s assessment is quite different. Most students take the assessment online where there is a variety of assistive technologies available. This year, the reading and science assessments are even adaptable. This means that the content adapts to the student’s performance. As a student answers questions, the testing application will present different stages of questions based on the student’s performance.

Our educators assess student learning continuously throughout the year. What makes this assessment unique is that all students in our state are taking the assessment, and taking it around the same time. This snapshot allows us to see student performance towards our core standards compared to other students in their grade, not just in their school or district, but across the state.

We want our students to do the best they can on this assessment since it only happens once in a year. In order to do so there are some tips families can follow. First, attendance matters! We hope all students can be present to take the assessments in our window, as well to have good attendance throughout the year to receive instruction. Second, keep good routines and sleep habits to help students feel energized and ready. Third, make sure students have breakfast at home or take advantage of breakfast at school. Last, encourage your students to just do their best!

Marshalltown Community School District will inform families when results from the test are available and how to view them online. This feedback is important and achievements can be celebrated!

David Stanfield is the instructional design specialist for Marshalltown Community School District. He can be reached at The district educates over 5,000 students to have the skills for a rapidly changing world. Learn more by visiting