Results from a national report card on student achievement shows Iowa eighth and fourth graders improved their reading scores as did the math scores for fourth graders, but eighth grade math scores held about the same since the last look in 2011.
Jay Pennington of the Iowa Department of Education says the good news in what’s called the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP (Nape) is that the state did not lose ground. “The report shows short-term gains, but over the long-term it’s still flat,” Pennington says.
Pennington is the chief data analyst for the department, and says the NAEP report confirms the things they’ve identified in the past and says the state still has work to do. “As an example, looking at reading in fourth grade going back to 1992, the results are flat between 1992 and 2013,” according to Pennington.
The state is in the midst of plans to improve the education system, and Pennington is hopeful they will help push up student improvement. “Such as the teacher leadership and compensation proposal, things like implementing the Iowa core, working on a response/intervention system statewide — those are all levers that the state has,” according to Pennington. “And I think our challenge is sticking with these reforms and implementing them with fidelity so that we can really move the needle on these relatively flat results.”
The achievement gap in fourth-grade reading between students in Iowa with and without disabilities is the worst in the nation. NAEP says the gap in achievement has narrowed for Iowa’s Hispanic students across the board. Pennington says the issues found in NAEP impact all students. “Our white students — which is the largest demographic in the state — are underperforming significantly in content areas such as reading compared to their national counterparts. So, that’s something that we certainly need to work on,” Pennington says.
The report says Iowa’s average reading score for fourth-grade students is 224 — higher than the state’s score of 221 in 2011 — but is not significantly different from the state’s 225 score in 1992. Iowa’s average score is higher than that of the nation’s public schools, which was 221.
Iowa’s average reading score for eighth-grade students at 269 is higher than the 265 of 2011, but is not significantly different from the 268 scored in 2003. Iowa’s average score is higher than that of the nation’s public schools score of 266.
Iowa’s average math score for fourth-grade students was 246, which is higher than the 243 scored in 2011, and higher than the 230 score of 1992. Iowa’s average score is higher than that of nation’s public schools, which was 241. Iowa’s average math score for eighth-grade students was 285, the same as 2011 and higher than that of 1990, which was 278. Iowa’s average score is not significantly different from that of nation’s public schools, which was 284.
The new programs to improve the state’s education system are in progress, with the department reporting this week that all 346 Iowa school districts have applied for planning grants to support the local development of teacher leadership and compensation systems. Pennington says that program and others should help the state to improve student performance. “I believe that the initiatives that we’ve picked as a state and are moving towards are proven — they’re proven in other states. So, it really comes down to how you are implementing. What type of support network you have around teacher leadership,” Pennington says.
The NAEP assessments are given to about 3,000 students in 100 schools in Iowa and other states for each grade and subject. For more information about NAEP, visit: nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard.