IOWA, USA — Near the end of each academic year, Iowa students in third grade and above take statewide tests to measure what they’re learning, and what they retain.
The latest results, released Tuesday by the Iowa Department of Education, show little improvement from years past.
According to the report, specific student groups — English learners, those with a disability and students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch — are falling significantly behind their peers.
"We sort of rest on our laurels in Iowa in the sense that we have a great educational system," said David Cassels Johnson, a professor of multilingual education at the University of Iowa. "But it's really failing these students because it hasn't caught up."
Iowa Department of Education Director McKenzie Snow said the data “show that overall student proficiency is not significantly different from last year, and concerning achievement gaps persist.”
For English language arts testing, students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch fell their peers by 15 to 17 percentage points.
English language learners are behind by an even greater margin: 40 to 59 percentage points. And math scores showed similar disparities, with a 37 to 51 margin.
"What ends up happening is that instead of testing math, or social studies, what they're testing is language, and they're not designed that way," Johnson explained of the standardized ELA tests. "So that makes them an invalid test for these students."
Iowa State Education Association president Mike Beranek says part of the problem lies with the state itself. In a statement, he wrote these scores will exist “so long as we have staffing shortages, inadequate funding, and mean-spirited attacks on our public schools.”
He continued on to criticize Gov. Kim Reynold’s efforts with education savings accounts, telling the governor to “shut down the private school voucher program that is diverting critical dollars away from public schools.”
The data also show Des Moines Public Schools in particular have low scores compared to the rest of the state. In a statement to Local 5, superintendent Dr. Ian Roberts didn't address the subjects they're behind in, but pointed to the district’s gains in math at almost every grade level.
You can view the full assessment results here: