The director of the Iowa Department of Education delivered her “Condition of Education” speech Thursday. Judy Jeffrey says the state of education is good, but there are areas that need improvement. She says those areas are high school achievement. She says the state has made gains in 4th and 8th grade, but has not made the same type gains in 11th grade. She says they made gains in the achievement gaps (between whites and minorities) in 4th grade, but actually lost ground Hispanic students in 11th grade.
Jeffrey says the background of the students plays a big role. Jeffrey says students, white, Hispanic and African Americans, students who’re in impoverished backgrounds don’t do as well. She says they means they have to really look at the resources they have available and how they spend them. Jeffrey says there are things they can do to improve. She says they can look at some extra time and instructional strategies, “But we also know this is a much bigger problem than just the school. That we have to work more closely with the families and the communities. This is about a culture of expectations that we hold, and it takes more than a teacher and a classroom to change that culture of expectations.”
Jeffrey says it’s important to get to kids early. She says if they can’t get students achieving at an earlier age, then the gaps increase. She says they also need to do more with high school teachers to help them understand literacy and communication development across the board.
Jeffrey has some things on her wish list for the legislature. She says we need to develop universal access to pre-school and they’ll ask the legislature to fund pre-school for four-year-olds. She says they also believe that they need a quality teacher in every school to achieve. Jeffrey gave her speech to the Iowa Association of School Boards meeting in Des Moines.