- Associated Press - Thursday, October 13, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Officials say Iowa student scores have dropped in statewide reading and math tests.

The percentage of Iowa fourth-graders on grade level in reading fell to 74.8 percent last spring from 75.7 percent during the 2014-15 school year, according to the Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/2dZI9Iv ). In math, fourth-grade proficiency fell to 79 percent this year from 80.3 percent in 2014-15.

Iowa Department of Education official Jay Pennington said the tests are only one measure of success. Up until this spring’s round of testing, results on the Iowa Assessments have increased every year since the accountability exams were begun in the 2011-12 school year.

“We want to look at this in conjunction with longer trends,” Pennington said.

Officials say it’s unclear why there were drops for the 2015-2016 school year. One explanation could be that teachers are now focusing more on the Iowa Core curriculum, which expresses statewide academic standards for what students should know in math, science, English language arts and social studies.

State leaders said that the Iowa Assessments tests don’t reflect the new learning expectations in reading and math. The state expects to move to Smarter Balanced exams in spring 2018, which are aligned with the Iowa Core.

The decline in test scores was especially prevalent among Iowa’s most disadvantaged students. Fourth-grade reading results among black students, including both African immigrants and African-American students, fell from 49.8 percent proficiency to 49.0 percent.

In comparison, proficiency among Iowa’s white students also fell from 80.5 percent to 79.7 percent.

Civil rights activist and former legislator Wayne Ford said that today’s education outcomes will affect tomorrow’s economic prospects.

“Yes, I’m concerned,” Ford said. “I worry about my sisters and brothers who are not graduating from high school or going to college.”

Iowa education leaders are drafting a new plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which will replace No Child Left Behind. The plan, which could be drafted as early as January, would hold schools accountable and provide struggling schools support to meet the new law.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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