DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The number of Iowa schools that failed to meet federal performance goals jumped by 55 percent this year, according to a report released Friday by the state Department of Education.
Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass told the Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/OtP5wa) that the increase was due to new, tougher statewide assessments that caused a drop in test scores. Glass also said a formula imposed by the federal No Child Left Behind Act does not adequately consider year-to-year progress.
The number of schools that fell short of the annual performance targets rose to 800 out of 1,381 schools statewide. Schools that missed goals for two consecutive years increased by nearly 20 percent, according to the report.
The 2011-12 school year was the first time Iowa students took the Iowa Assessments, which are more in line with the more stringent standards. Schools had previously administered the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, so school officials say comparisons between student scores this year and previous years are misleading.
The percentage of students scoring at or above grade level in reading and math had been on pace to increase by 7 percent this year. Under the federal law, 100 percent of students are expected to be proficient in both subjects by 2014, a goal that's been widely criticized as unrealistic.
Iowa officials had asked for a federal waiver from the requirements, but were denied in June because the state teacher evaluation system fell short of federal requirements.
Without the waiver or a change in the law by Congress, Glass said more schools will be classified as underperforming and will face increasingly severe sanctions. He noted urban schools with high rates of poverty are affected disproportionately, because they're penalized even if they make some progress each year.
"We don't want to shy away from accountability, but the calculation method we're using is unfairly penalizing schools that are making a lot of progress with kids," Glass said. "If you're getting (performance) growth, then you don't deserve to be blamed and shamed."
Among the districts with the most schools in need, Davenport saw the largest increase: From 20 to 25, all of them elementary schools.
Davenport schools Superintendent Art Tate said the federal labels don't help the district because the goals are unrealistic. The district has instead focused on closing the achievement gap among minority students. Last year produced mixed results: Latinos fell behind in reading and math, while black students showed improvement.
"I think what is getting us all is poverty," Tate said. "If you look at dropout rates, scores, absenteeism, discipline, you'll see a high correlation between those and poverty."
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com