Each year, the Iowa Department of Education releases its Condition of Education report. Here are 7 facts about Iowa schools from its 2016 report.
Des Moines Register
Superintendents in the Johnson County area say Iowa’s proposed education accountability plan would bring improvements compared with No Child Left Behind.
While questions remain about what assessment Iowa will use to gauge students’ progress, school district superintendents in Iowa City, Clear Creek Amana and West Branch said they are hopeful about the state’s plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
Iowa City Superintendent Steve Murley said in an email that Every Student Succeeds creates more state and local control when it comes to tracking students’ progress. He said the state used this flexibility “to create an accountability plan that is better connected to the needs of Iowa.”
On Monday, Iowa released its plan and submitted it to the U.S. Department of Education for approval.
President Barack Obama signed Every Student Succeeds into law in 2015. It will replace the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, giving state leaders broader authority to use their own measures of success when evaluating schools.
Kevin Hatfield, superintendent of the West Branch Community School District, and Murley said they appreciate how the new plan focuses on supporting schools rather than sanctioning them.
Sanctions under No Child Left Behind for any school that failed to reach progress goals after several years included corrective actions like staff replacement and restructuring. But Iowa’s Every Student Succeeds plan would establish additional resources for the lowest-performing schools.
Hatfield and Murley also said they appreciate the variety of progress measures in the new plan, including test results, students’ achievement growth rates, graduation rates and a measure of post-secondary readiness.
No Child Left Behind focused on reading and math benchmarks.
However, Clear Creek Amana Superintendent Tim Kuehl said Iowa’s choice of a new state assessment will make a big difference when it comes to successfully tracking students’ academic progress.
“We don’t really know all the details yet,” he said.
Although the Iowa Board of Education adopted the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the tests were never funded nor implemented in Iowa schools. A search for a new assessment vendor is underway.
The new education plan also uses different, and sometimes lower, goals for minority and low-income students. The differentiated measures aim to help the state close the achievement gap between student subgroups.
More: Iowa plan sets higher growth rate, lower goals for minority students
Kuehl said Clear Creek Amana is working on closing proficiency gaps between Special Education students and their general education peers, as well as gaps affecting English Language Learner students. He said he is unsure whether the plan will offer resources to help with this work.
Paul Roesler, vice president of the Iowa City Community School Board, said the plan’s focus on gaps is aligned with work already underway in Iowa City schools. He pointed to the district’s weighted resource model, which aims to concentrate resources like teachers at schools with high levels of need.
“We may be ahead of the curve in starting to do some of those things,” he said.
Hatfield said West Branch also is working to bridge achievement gaps, including those that stem from poverty. West Branch considers students’ growth, Hatfield said, adding that he looks forward to tracking growth in terms of multiple measures under the new plan.
“It looks to me like it’s giving us much more flexibility,” he said.
Reach Holly Hines at email@example.com or at 319-887-5414 and follow her on Twitter at @HollyJHines
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