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Editorial: Take Iowa schools’ report card with a grain of salt

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | SEPTEMBER 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa Department of Education released the 2014 state report card Tuesday, and the results have garnered mixed reactions.

The report card indicates Iowa has not met certain targets established under the No Child Left Behind law. The main argument raised by those in the education community is that the targets schools are expected to meet are unrealistic and do not account for the progress the Iowa school systems are making.

The implementation of these high standards are making for a moving target educators cannot hope to hit.

The results of this state report card are not receiving a warm welcome. According to the results determined by scores on the annual Iowa Assessment, around two-thirds of Iowa public schools did not meet proficiency standards in mathematics and reading. The target for the 2013-14 school year was 100 percent proficiency. The statistics paint a gruesome picture of the academic success in the Iowa school districts, but some are saying that these numbers do not account for the amount of tangible progress that has been made.

This year, the state of Iowa saw an 11.8 percent increase of districts labeled as in need of assistance compared with last year, according to the report. The proficiency target also went up from 80 percent in 2011-12 to 100 percent in 2013-14, which some local educators contend is an unreasonable goal.

Many are pointing to the same issues raised with the Common Core about academic success being measured against other states and government proposed curriculums. What works for other states may not necessarily work for the students of Iowa and being labeled “In need of assistance” doesn’t necessarily improve morale.

However, resistance to these measurements can result in the loss of valuable government funding that could prove helpful in efforts to restructure and improve performance. Given the importance placed on the results of standardizing testing, one cannot simply opt out of the process on the pretense that the rubric in place is flawed. While the standards used to measure student performance may require some adjustment, they cannot be ignored completely.

Progress is always something that should be recognized, but this is a situation in which the evidence of a lack of progress overshadows the real work being made to meet the seemingly impossible targets being established. These results do not say that Iowa schools are not working hard to reach their goals, but rather they just haven’t met them yet. Whether the fault lies in the inflexibility of the No Child Behind Laws is unclear, but what is clear is that compromise has to be made. The problem in trying to measure the success of a wide pool of students is the same problem that comes up when trying to teach a wide pool of students. What works for some doesn’t always work for all, and the solution isn’t to force homogeny on a student population using higher goals and punishment for missing said goals. The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes flexibility and adaptation will prove crucial in measuring the progress of a diverse education system such as Iowa’s. 


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