The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

September 24, 2013

Many Iowa schools not meeting federal standards

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — More than half of Iowa's schools did not meet educational targets set by the No Child Left Behind Law during the latest academic year, according to a report released Tuesday.

But State Education Department Director Brad Buck said the results make clear that the accountability system within the federal program is a bad fit for states and needs to be revised.

Buck says the current system doesn't acknowledge different needs in different schools. He also says schools making progress with disadvantaged students are not rewarded.

"This one-size-fits-all federal system is unfair and unequipped to drive us toward better outcomes for students," Buck said in a news release. "On paper, many more schools and districts are missing targets or moving into higher levels of accountability. No Child Left Behind's arbitrary rules fail to recognize that students come to school with different starting points."

During the 2012-2013 school year, 64 percent of the state's 1,361 public schools did not meet standards for test participation and proficiency in reading and mathematics, according to the annual report.

The federal law requires annual testing to show proficiency in reading and mathematics. This year, 94 percent of students are expected to be proficient and next year it will be 100 percent.

Tammy Wawro, president of the Iowa State Education Association, which represents about 34,000 teachers, support staff and other educators, said she agreed with Buck.

"It doesn't track our actual progress and that's unfortunate," she said of No Child Left Behind.

Some states have received waivers granting permission to ignore parts of the law. Iowa has applied, but has not been granted any exemption.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called for a replacement to No Child Left Behind. He has said the existing law does not allow school leaders to use common sense to determine what schools are failing and which are statistical anomalies.

Buck said the law has been helpful to the state in some ways. He said Iowa still has work to do, but stressed that parents with concerns about the latest data should find out what's going on in their local district.

"I think part of this conversation is parents understanding their local conversation and their local story. These designations may mean something and may mean nothing at all," Buck said.

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