The number of Iowa public schools that are falling short of expectations set in a federal law has more than doubled in a year. A new report shows 293 Iowa schools are now on the "in need of assistance" list under the No Child Left Behind law. Elaine Watkins-Miller is a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Education.
"This year, it was expected that there would be more schools identified as ‘schools in need of assistance’ and that is true," Watkins-Miller said. Twenty-percent of Iowa’s 1,442 public schools are on this list, up 9% from last year. State officials blame tougher federal expectations for the increase. The No Child Left Behind law asks schools to make sure all students are proficient in math and reading by 2014 or face penalties.
The law has been criticized by many educators who say it penalizes schools based on the performance of a few students. Watkins-Miller says Iowa schools are doing their best to avoid being added to the list. "Even with this great challenge, there are schools that are making great achievements and there are districts that have gotten off the list of being identified as a school in need of assistance," Watkins-Miller said.
Middle schools located in Carroll, Johnston and Waukee were identified as the schools that improved test scores and were removed from the list. Although Iowa has 20% of its schools on the list, the state’s public schools are performing much better than those in other states.
"There are states, even here in the Midwest, that have 50% of their schools identified and some in the nation have 70%," Watkins-Miller said. Schools are identified as "failing" based on state test scores, attendance and graduation rates. Schools that miss the federal targets two years in a row are placed on the list.