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From at least 1919, faculty and graduate students at the University of Iowa prepared tests for use in Iowa elementary and secondary schools. Ernest J. Ashbaugh (1883-1965), working under the direction of Ernest Horn (1882-1967) in the department of education, developed several versions of “Iowa Spelling Scale” that year. The scales were meant for use at different grade levels. In about 1920, the University also began to require that applicants take standardized tests. At first, Thorndike intelligence scales were used. By 1923, two other tests were in use. One was the Morgan’s Mental Test, developed by John J. Morgan of the Psychopathic Hospital at Iowa (see MA.316371.046). A second, published by the Extension Division of the University of Iowa was the Iowa Comprehension Test (see MA.316371.025), an examination of reading comprehension developed by Iowa psychologist and dean Carl E. Seashore. These were soon replaced by the Iowa Entrance Examination, prepared by Iowa psychologist Giles M. Ruch (1892-1943) with the cooperation of C.L. Huffaker, F.B. Knight, and W. Koerth (for part of this, see MA.316371.026).
This activity prompted further requests for tests. In 1924, the Board of Investigation and Coordination of Engineering Education asked Seashore if there might be a test to assist engineering teachers in properly placing students in courses in the discipline according to their individual differences. Seashore enlisted the help of graduate student George D. Stoddard (1897-1981) in developing a series of tests to identify aptitude and existing training in such areas as chemistry, English, French, foreign languages generally, mathematics, physics, and Spanish. An example of the 1941 revised form of the placement test for foreign language is 1983.0168.14.
In the late 1920s, under the direction of Thomas Kirby, the College of Education and Extension Division of the University of Iowa began a new program to encourage academic achievement in Iowa high schools. From 1929, Academic Meets were held in high schools across the state. Participants took a paper-and-pencil tests in twelve different academic areas. Top-scoring students went district contests and then to Iowa City for further testing – winners received medals. The contest proved successful, but exhausting. It was the official beginning of the Iowa Testing Programs. In 1931, when Iowa-born educator Everett Franklin Lindquist (1901-1978) took over the project, he discontinued the district contests, although the department of education continued to prepare admissions tests for the university. For example, as late as 1943 Norman C. Meier prepared both an answer sheet (1979.0710.45) and a scoring key (1979.0710.44) for the “Iowa High School Content Examination.” These were published by the University of Iowa Bureau of Educational Research and Service.
The university also published a battery of tests called "Iowa Every-Pupil Achievement Tests.” All students graduating from participating Iowa school districts were required to take the tests, supplying results to the University where the scores received statistical analysis. In the course of the 1930s, the scope of the Iowa tests expanded to include not only tests of graduating seniors but examinations in several different areas for students throughout the course of their studies. Thus, for example, Iowa professor Harry A. Greene (1889-1974) and University of Arizona staff member Victor H. Kelley (1901-1975) published a test of silent reading for elementary students in grades four through nine. It was copyrighted by World Book Company in 1933 and then republished in 1939 (see 1983.0168.10). Similarly, in 1943 Greene, Kelley, and Albert. N. Jorgensen (1889-1978), the president of the University of Connecticut, published an advanced test of silent reading, again with World Book Company (see 1989.0710.46). By this time, Iowa tests were using as a key for grading a profile chart patented by Charles E. Lauterbach. Such tests would be grouped together in batteries – the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills developed for grades three through eight while the Iowa Tests of Educational Development were for high school students.
A set of materials associated with Iowa language abilities tests from the post-war years illustrates the expanding range of tests and testing materials developing then. By this time, the Iowa Language Abilities Tests (and some other Iowa tests) were distributed by World Book Company. The earliest copyright date for such a test in the NMAH collections, for 1946, is on a leaflet with punched holes that served as a key for Form B of the intermediate version of the language abilities test (1990.0034.111). From 1948, there are examples of both the elementary form of the test (1990.0034.109) and the intermediate form (1990.0034.110). Both of these were coauthored by Harry A. Greene and the late Harvey Leigh Ballenger (1888-1942). Ballenger had obtained his M.A. and PhD. from Iowa and was working in New Mexico at the time of his death. To accompany the 1948 editions of the tests, Greene and Ballenger had prepared both directions for administering them (1990.0034.108) and a manual for interpreting them (1990.0034.107).
Iowa tests were not sold only by the university or the World Book Company. For example, from 1942 Science Research Associates published the Iowa Tests of Educational Development under the editorship of E.F. Lindquist. Subjects tested included general background in the natural sciences (1990.0034.085) and sources of information (1990.0034.086) – this examination.
For completeness sake, one should also mention that standardized tests developed at Iowa in the first half of the twentieth century included artistic as well as academic subjects. Norman C. Meier developed tests relating to art judgment that were published by the university (see 1989.0710.30 and 1989.0710.33). At the same time, staff associated with Iowa influenced tests developed elsewhere. For example, E.F. Lindquist had much to do with the tests of General Educational Development or G.E.D. associated with the U.S. Armed Forces Institute (see 1989.0710.50 through 1989.53 and 1989.0710.66 through 1979.0710.69).
Ashbaugh, Ernest J. The Iowa Spelling Scales: Their Derivation, Use, and Limitations, PhD. Dissertation, University of Iowa, 1919.
Ballenger, Harvey Leigh, The Validation of the Iowa Elementary Language Tests, Iowa City: The University, 1931. This publication is based on Ballenger’s 1929 University of Iowa dissertation.
Ruch, Giles M. A Mental Educational Survey of 1550 Iowa High School Seniors, Iowa City: The University, 1923.
Seashore, Carl. E., “The Placement Examination as a Means for the Early Discovery and Motivation of the Future Scholar,” Journal of Proceedings and Addresses of the Twenty-Seventh Annual Conference of the American Association of Universities, 1925, pp. 50-56.
“George Stoddard Dies at 84: Led Four Universities,” New York Times, December 29, 1981, p. 17.
Stoddard, George D., Iowa Placement Examinations, PhD. Dissertation, University of Iowa, 1925.
Peterson, Julia J. The Iowa Testing Programs: The First Fifty Years, Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1983.
Quinn, Lois “An Institutional History of the GED,” in Heckman, James J., Humphries, John Eric, and Kautz, Tim (eds.) The Myth of Achievement Tests: The GED and the Role of Character in American Life, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014, pp. 57–109.
Lauterbach, Charles E., “Educational Test Sheet,” U.S. Patent 1586628, June 1, 1926.At the time he received the patent, Lauterbach lived in Morgantown, West Virginia.
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