Iowa rated poorly in education report

Melissa Berg

Despite the fact that Iowa is one of the few states that doesn’t require standards for student and teaching performance, experts from Iowa State and Ames Community Schools think the current system is working fine.

Ann Thompson, ISU chairwoman for the department of curriculum and instruction, said Iowa has not adopted statewide standards for student performance because local control is preferred.

“Iowa is deeply committed to the concept of local control in education,” she said.

In a report released last month by the journal Education Week, Iowa was the only state to receive an “F” in academic standards.

Though Iowa lacks a statewide standard, Thompson said Iowa students still do well in comparison with other states.

“Iowa is consistently recognized for its outstanding educational systems and is well-known nationally for the success of its students,” she said.

Although Iowa doesn’t have a state standard, each school district in Iowa is required to define academic standards for students. The districts must also provide the state with specific information on student attainment of these standards, Thompson said.

“Given the outstanding record of student academic achievement in Iowa, the local-standards approach seems to be sound,” she said.

Gloria Corbin, Ames associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said Iowa will fail or not be included in most of these studies because there is no publication with the necessary information.

In order to do a report on Iowa, a district-by-district collaboration of information would have to be done.

Corbin said the board is planning to release a statement regarding the districts’ competencies and their work to upgrade their standards.

“The Ames school district has their essential standards in place, but they are beginning to examine their standards for a second time and look at them in detail,” she said.

Corbin said she thought the state should think about setting a statewide standard in order to relieve some of the heavy responsibility from the individual districts.

The fourth-annual study released by the magazine, called Quality Counts 2000, also evaluated teacher quality, student performance and resources.

Iowa received a “D” for teacher quality because state grades for improving teacher quality declined this year due to “changes to the indicators,” the study stated.

The study did show many recent initiatives to ensure Iowa’s teacher quality. These included a test for admission to teacher education programs, additional licensing exams and a mentoring program for new teachers.

Iowa’s resources scored well in Quality Counts 2000, with a “B-.” This category evaluated the adequacy of spending, allocation and equity.