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IC school district falls short of national benchmarks

BY ALEKSANDRA VUJICIC | SEPTEMBER 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa City School District was labeled as “in need of assistance,” along with 44 other Iowa districts, according to the 2014 State Report Card for No Child Left Behind.

The results are based on student performance on standardized tests taken throughout the 2013-14 school year for the third through eighth grade, as well as the 11th grade.

The federal law requires public schools to meet adequate yearly progress standards, which measures proficiency under federal law, for the overall school population and for demographic subgroups.

These subgroups can include socioeconomic status, limited English proficiency, and special education, according to the state Department of Education.

If a district does not meet the proficiency benchmark in math and reading for two-consecutive years, it is labeled as “in need of assistance.”

School Board President Chris Lynch said the target proficiency rate has changed over time, and this year it required 100 percent proficiency, which means every student must reach grade-level standards set by the law.

This year, the state saw an 11.8 percent increase in the number of districts labeled as in need of assistance compared with last year, according to the report. 

Education Department spokeswoman Staci Hupp said the percentage of schools that are not meeting the yearly progress targets has gone up because the target goes up every year. 

“The law in its current form has outlived its usefulness as a lever for improving student achievement,” Hupp said in an email statement. “In Iowa, we embrace accountability and high expectations. But the accountability system under No Child Left Behind should be fair, and the sanctions and supports should drive us toward better outcomes for children.”

Despite the Iowa City district’s shortfall, Lynch said Iowa City students are doing better today than they were a year ago or even three years ago.

He said this improvement has been evident across grade levels and with higher ACT scores and participation. That this progress is not evident through No Child Left Behind is unfortunate, he said.

“We just reviewed our student performance, and we continue to see increased performance versus the national average,” Lynch said.

School Board member Orville Townsend said that in any situation, not necessarily just schools, when you expect someone to achieve 100 percent, there is no room for error. But the financial incentives that come with the law should also be kept in mind.

“Whenever we want to consider [No Child Left Behind] or discuss that we need to first go and look at what amount of additional money is involved and whether No Child Left Behind provided the money to allow people to do what needs to be done,” Townsend said.

The district has created action plans in line with the No Child Left Behind requirements, and Lynch said 100 percent proficiency is always a long term goal but may not necessarily be the only measure of success.

“I think 100 percent of our kids are meeting their maximum potential and if we’re doing that, then we’re successful,” Lynch said.


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