Elementary and middle school students are showing steady improvement according to results from the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. The tests show nearly 80% of the state’s fourth-graders are proficient in both reading and math. That’s up from 75% six years ago.
The percentage of improvement is similar among eighth-graders. But, there’s been a drop-off this decade in reading and math skills among juniors in high school. Iowa Department of Education Director Judy Jeffrey says it’s hard to say why.
“I always ask when I go out, can you tell me why this happening and they tend to say people don’t take this seriously at 11th grade and they’re focused on college and the ACT…of course, we do very well on the ACT, so they know that one really counts,” Jeffrey said. Seventy-seven percent of 11th graders are proficient in reading, the same as six years ago.
The percentage of juniors proficient in math has dropped a couple of points in that time. “We know we have to engage our high school students more actively in learning. There are lots of trends to indicate that,” Jeffrey said. “We need to show them that these test scores do mean a difference for their school and their future. But, it’s a combination of factors.” Jeffrey says she’s pleased with the improvements recorded by African-American and Hispanic students since 2001.
The latest Condition of Education report shows enrollment in Iowa public schools dropped for the 11th straight year. But, it forecasts a modest growth of two-percent in the number of students over the next five years.