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story.lead_photo.caption Information about Iowa Assessments

Arkansas' first- and second-graders dipped on the 2017 Iowa Assessments as pupils in those grades did in 2016, according to data from the Arkansas Department of Education.

Composite results for math and English/language arts at both grades dropped by as many as 3 points in 2017 on the nationally normed tests, which compare Arkansas pupils with a national sample of pupils who took the same exams.

Arkansas first-graders had a math and English/language arts composite score at the 48th percentile this year, down from the 50th percentile -- the national average -- in 2016.

Second-graders achieved at the 53rd percentile in math and English/language arts this year, down from the 56th percentile composite score the year before on the exam previously known as the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills.

[DATABASE: Search your school, district for complete 2017 Iowa Test results]

The Arkansas Department of Education's posting on its website of the 2017 Iowa results marks the beginning of the annual test reporting season for the state's more than 250 school districts and charter schools, and 475,000 public school students.

The more voluminous results from the ACT Aspire tests -- given in grades three through 10 -- in English, math and science will be posted in the coming days, Hope Allen, the Education Department's director of assessment, said Thursday.

More than 36,000 Arkansas first- and second-graders took the Iowa tests this past spring.

It was the last time the state administered the Iowa Assessments, the results from which are used to identify the academic needs of individual children as well as find gaps in curriculum and classroom instruction.

Beginning with the upcoming 2017-18 school year, Arkansas school districts will choose from a menu of three national exams for their youngest test-takers, Allen said Thursday.

"We have been successful in procuring three options for schools for 2017-2018: NWEA, i̶S̶t̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ Istation* and Renaissance Learning," Allen said. "Schools will choose one of these three assessments to give to their kindergarten- through second-grade students. These assessments will give teachers feedback on students at least three times throughout the year."

The new tests will be shorter and quicker than the one-time, year-end Iowa Assessments.

"Teachers will get feedback immediately so they can make decisions about instruction for the kids," she said.

As for the statewide drop in the Iowa results this year: "We can't pinpoint anything that caused it or any reason to be alarmed in any way," Allen said in an interview.

The results of the tests can be reviewed and reported in a variety of ways. An evaluation of the results in terms of the numbers of students meeting minimum cut-scores for achieving state-set levels of proficiency didn't change compared with the past year, Allen said.

The 2017 Iowa tests were given at a time when Arkansas schools were putting into place new Arkansas education standards for math and literacy. The new standards that list what students should be taught at each grade were developed by teams of state educators and approved by the Arkansas Board of Education last year.

The Arkansas standards replaced the previously used Common Core State Standards that were written by national committees of educators and subject area experts.

Allen said the state's revised education standards are not likely to be a cause for the drop in the Iowa scores.

"The revision was not significant to the core of what is being taught," Allen said.

Janice Warren, director of elementary education in the Pulaski County Special School District, said the district's elementary school principals are in the process of reviewing the first- and second-grade results.

"They will dig down deeper and look at the specific skills that our kids are mastering and not mastering," Warren said. "We look at it overall, and student by student. We do a comparison from year to year, which really helps us decide if there is a curriculum gap. If the deficiencies in the skills are the same year to year, then we know there is a gap, which can then be addressed by the district's literacy and math curriculum teams."

Warren and her staff will attend a July 17 state conference where presentations will be made by vendors of the new tests for the youngest test-takers.

"It's going to be interesting to see," she said. "Our concern is that we will be changing assessments again. When you do that as a district you have inconsistencies in your data. You are not comparing apples to apples."

Although the student achievement on the Iowa Assessments showed declines, the state's second-graders continued to perform above the national average on the tests, achieving a total English/language arts score at the 51st percentile -- down from the 54th percentile -- and achieving a total math score at the 59th percentile. That was down from the 62nd percentile in 2016.

Arkansas' first-graders trailed second-graders, achieving at the 50th percentile on all math portions of the test and at the 46th percentile, which is below the national average, for all English/language arts sections of the test. In 2016, first-graders scored at the 52nd percentile in math and the 49th percentile on the English/language arts portions of the test.

Pupils in both first and second grades this year had better results on the math subsections of the Iowa tests than on English/language arts subsections.

Second-graders, for example, achieved at the 78th percentile in computation. First-graders hit the 56th percentile on computation section of the test.

Vocabulary was the weakest subject for both first- and second-graders.

First-graders achieved at the 44th percentile in vocabulary. Second-graders achieved at the 46th percentile on that section of the test.

The Iowa Assessment results vary greatly from district to district and from school to school, even among schools in the same district.

Second-graders at Baker Elementary School in the Pulaski County Special School District, for example, scored at the 79th percentile in English/languages arts and at the 83rd percentile in math, compared with the 18th percentile in English/language arts and the 19th percentile in math at Harris Elementary School, which is in another part of the same district.

Results for each of the four districts in Pulaski County, the state's most populous district, varied.

In the state-controlled Little Rock School District, first-graders achieved at the 42nd percentile in English/language arts and 43rd percentile in math. Second-graders achieved at the 44th percentile in English/language arts and the 53rd percentile in math.

The state took over the district in January 2015 because six of its 48 schools were labeled as academically distressed, the result of chronically low test scores. Three schools carry the label now.

First-graders in the Pulaski County Special District scored at the 45th percentile in English/language arts and 47th percentile in math. Second-graders scored at the 49th percentile in English/language arts and 55th percentile in math.

First-graders in the North Little Rock School District scored at the 39th percentile in English/language arts and 40th percentile in math. Second-graders achieved at the 39th percentile in English/language arts and the 43rd percentile in math.

First-graders in the new Jacksonville/North Pulaski district scored at the 23rd percentile in English/language arts and 25th percentile in math. Second-graders achieved at the 29th percentile in English/language arts and the 43rd percentile in math.

Elsewhere in the state, results included:

• First-graders in the Conway School District scored at the 51st percentile in English/language arts and 54th percentile in math. Second-graders achieved at the 58th percentile in English/language arts and the 56th percentile in math.

• First-graders in the Springdale School District scored at the 36th percentile in English/language arts and 43rd percentile in math. Second-graders achieved at the 38th percentile in English/language arts and the 47th percentile in math.

• First-graders in the Jonesboro School District scored at the 33rd percentile in English/language arts and 34th percentile in math. Second-graders achieved at the 39th percentile in English/language arts and the 52nd percentile in math.

• First-graders in the Pine Bluff School District scored at the 26th percentile in English/language arts and 29th percentile in math. Second-graders achieved at the 21st percentile in English/language arts and the 23rd percentile in math.

• First-graders in the Texarkana School District scored at the 35th percentile in English/language arts and 31st percentile in math. Second-graders achieved at the 38th percentile in English/language arts and the 45th percentile in math.

Independently operated, publicly funded charter schools also had to administer the Iowa tests if their schools served first- and second-graders. The results for those charter systems also varied.

For example, the eSTEM Public Charter School system's first-graders scored at the 73rd percentile in English/language arts and at the 61st percentile in math. Second-graders scored at the 61st percentile in English/language arts and the 69th percentile in math. The eSTEM school is in Little Rock.

First-graders in the LISA Academy charter system, which has one elementary campus in Little Rock and one in Sherwood, scored at the 48th percentile in English and 45th percentile in math. Second-graders scored at the 49th percentile in English and 57th percentile in math.

First-graders in the KIPP Delta Charter Schools system headquartered in Helena-West Helena scored at the 37th percentile in English/language arts and the 35th percentile in math. Second-graders scored at the 31st percentile in English/language arts and the 28th percentile in math.

A Section on 06/30/2017

*CORRECTION: Istation is one of three vendors selected by the Arkansas Department of Education to provide standardized tests for first- and second-graders beginning in the 2017-18 school year. The name of the vendor was not accurately capitalized in a previous version of this article.

Print Headline: State pupils slip a few points on Iowa tests

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