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Iowa Assessments K-12 Achievement Assessments

Spotlight on Iowa Assessments: College and Career Readiness

Catherine Welch, Ph.D
Written By Catherine Welch, Ph.D
On Aug 13, 2019
2 minute read

Amid the rising costs of college education and an increasing number of students who arrive on campus unprepared for the rigors of postsecondary coursework comes a growing need to measure—and understand—what it means to succeed in college and/or a career. Enter the Iowa Assessments™. As one of the nation’s premier measures of achievement, the Iowa Assessments™ provide users with an array of information, including measures of readiness for college and career.

What is college and career readiness?

College readiness is the level of achievement at which a student maximizes his/her success in credit-bearing postsecondary coursework. The concept of readiness has multiple dimensions, but educators and policy makers have reached consensus on many important academic characteristics of students prepared for postsecondary opportunities. Regardless of the research base to support these targets, they are typically predicated on a criterion measure of success and an empirical relationship between prior assessment information (e.g., test score) and success in college.

Educators and policymakers have long been concerned with how to best shape teaching and learning to foster growth and enhance student success after high school. The focus on college
and career readiness (CCR), and on assessments that can help, determine it is not a recent manifestation of such a universal ideal in education. E. F. Lindquist, the founder of The Iowa Tests, was a frequent writer on the nature of the problem of improving scholarship and college entrance examinations. As early as 1958, he called for a more clearly aligned assessment with what he termed “lasting outcomes” of general education in core content areas of the high school curriculum. He argued that the right test design for entrance was one that can “measure directly the student’s readiness for college” (Lindquist, 1958, p. 108, emphasis in the original). 

Lindquist’s ideas speak to the broad nature of the CCR construct as it was understood more than half a century ago and to one idea at the core of measuring college and career readiness today: that assessments designed to support inferences about CCR must strike a delicate balance among many complementary and sometimes competing and even conflicting purposes and uses. As we know, college and career readiness have become a clarion call for assessment reform. With this call, validation evidence and arguments for the appropriate use of assessments that claim to measure CCR are urgently needed. Validity evidence presented for the Iowa Assessments as a general achievement measure strikes a balance between coverage of detailed standards and the more lasting outcomes of education. For the Iowa Assessments, data and college outcome measures validate the appropriate achievement targets for readiness, connect achievement targets to actual performance in college courses, and develop a system for tracking student progress toward readiness achievement targets.

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