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Iowa’s annual education report shows little progress on state, national exams

Meredith Hines-Dochterman, The CR Gazette  –

More than two months have passed since Gov. Terry Branstad released his blueprint for education, with changes he’s said will make Iowa’s students competitive on a global level.

Touting the proposed changes at town hall meetings throughout the state, Branstad has said Iowa can’t rest on its history of strong academics.

The data from the latest Condition of Education Report says the same.

According to the 2011 report, released Wednesday, fourth-grade test results in reading and math proficiency are relatively flat.

Eighty percent of Iowa’s fourth graders were deemed proficient in the reading portion of the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills 2009-2011 biennium, compared to 78.4 percent of students from 2004-2006. Math results have 80.7 percent of Iowa’s fourth graders testing proficient in the 2009-2011 biennium, compared to 80.1 percent from 2004-2006.

The increase in eighth-grade proficiency results on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills between the 2004-2006 and 2009-11 biennium is minimal, with 74.3 percent of students proficient in reading in 2009-2011 compared to 71.4 percent in 2004-2006. Math results had 76.7 percent of Iowa’s eighth graders at the proficient level in 2009-2011 compared to 74.8 percent in 2004-2006.

Eleventh-grade Iowa Tests of Educational Development proficiency results are mixed. Reading trends were up one point – 77.8 percent in 2009-2011 compared to 76.8 in 2004-2006 – while math results decreased to 77.4 percent in 2009-2011, compared to 78.5 percent in 2006-2006.

The state’s National Association of Education Progress results continue this trend of little to no progress.

Iowa’s fourth graders scored an average of 243 on the math exam in 2011, while the fourth-grade average reading score was 221 in 2011. Both scores are slightly above the national average, which were 240 and 220 respectively, but they are unchanged from Iowa’s 2009 average scores.

The state’s eighth graders had an average score of 285 on the math exam in 2011, which was above the state average of 283. Iowa’s 2011 reading average for this grade level was 265 while the national average was 264.

Iowa students continued to have the second-highest ACT average score in the country, 22.3 compared to national average of 21.1, but the percentage of Iowa students taking the ACT has decreased from 67 percent in 2001 to 61 percent in 2011. During this same period, the national percentage of students taking the ACT has increased from 38 percent in 2001 to 49 percent 2011.

The state’s blueprint for education reform includes making the ACT exam mandatory for all Iowa high school juniors.

Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds have continually said the town hall meetings they’ve hosted throughout the state are to gather input on their proposed education reforms. The revised proposal, with more details and a price tag, will be released in January, prior to the 2012 Legislative session.


Education in Iowa by the numbers. Figures are from the 2010-11 school year, unless otherwise stated.

507,297: The number of students enrolled in Iowa’s public and nonpublic schools. Statewide enrollment has declined by 29 percent since its peak in 1972-73 with 711,000 students. 359: The number of Iowa school districts in 2010-11; there were 361 the year before and 431 in 1990. Minority students make up 18.5 percent of the student body. Nearly 39 percent of the state’s students qualified for the free and reduced-price lunch program in 2010-11, compared to 27 percent in 2000-01. The average age of Iowa public school teachers is 27.5; average principal age is 46.6; average superintendent age is 52.8 for women and 50.8 for men. $49,626: average teacher salary. Iowa ranks 26th nationally in teacher pay $87,663: average principal salary. $118,667: average superintendent salary. $9,455: average state spending per pupil in 2010-11.Source: Iowa Department of Education


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