Iowa’s education system is in need of a major remodel. Students are missing the mark in math and reading competency while their counterparts in other states have made significant gains, according to a new report released by the Iowa Department of Education.
Achievement trends show stagnant scores across the board, from disadvantaged and minority students to white, relatively affluent students. The results document Iowa’s slide from a national leader in education to a national average, or sometimes below average, performer over the past 20 years.
“There are many good schools across the state, but given the global nature of the economy, we need them to be great,” said Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education. “We must have a world-class education system to have a world-class workforce.”
The report, “Rising to Greatness: An Imperative for Improving Iowa’s Schools,” provides critical information that will help policymakers, educators, parents and other Iowans target solutions in a statewide effort to restore Iowa’s standing as a leader in education.
A key first step is the Iowa Education Summit hosted by Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds on July 25-26 in Des Moines. The sold-out summit will focus on increasing teacher and principal effectiveness, raising academic standards and putting in place strong matching assessments and innovation that boosts learning.
“Our greatest hope is that we leave with a lot of ideas and some consensus that we can improve Iowa’s schools,” Glass said. “We have to build a compelling vision for what education in Iowa might be like – a significant remodel of what we have now.”
The report card released today includes information on population and enrollment shifts in Iowa; reading and math scores on NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills; results from the ACT college entrance exam; a comparison of math performance in Iowa and other states to other nations; and a national comparison of the percentage of people with bachelor’s degrees.
- In 1992, no state scored higher than Iowa on the NAEP in fourth-grade reading. By 2009, however, 13 states scored significantly higher than Iowa.
- From 1992 to 2009, Iowa’s eighth-grade NAEP mathematics scores fell from the top in the nation to average.
- Only 29 percent of Iowa eighth-grade students who took the NAEP in 2009 were enrolled in Algebra I or another higher-level mathematics course. Students in only three states recorded lower enrollment.
- Iowa’s majority white students are underperforming. When 2009 NAEP assessment scores are disaggregated by race and socioeconomic standing, Iowa’s mean scores are below the national average for white students.
- Hispanic and African American student groups have lagged behind white students in proficiency over the past decade in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade mathematics on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills.
- The achievement gap between Iowa students with and without disabilities on the 2009 NAEP is the worst in the nation.
- Despite Iowa’s above-average scores on the ACT college entrance exam, the percentage of test-takers who met all four ACT benchmarks showing they are ready for college was 30 percent in 2010.
- Iowa tied for the 16th lowest percentage of people with a bachelor’s degree (25.1 percent) in 2009, according to a national comparison.
“Iowa’s school system has a good foundation to build on, but this house needs a major remodel,” Glass said. “As a system, we’ve got very dedicated educators and some very good schools – but we need to upgrade and consider adopting some of the practices of the highest performing systems to create a truly world-class school system. Iowa’s kids deserve nothing less.”
Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education and Jay Pennington, chief of the Iowa Department of Education’s Bureau of Information, present the Rising to Greatness: An Imperative for Improving Iowa’s Schools report on July 21, 2011.