Especially, he said, since 10 percent more students took the exam. Typically, regions where only the top, college-bound students take the test do better than areas where all kids take the test. The Ottumwa district has encouraged more and more students to take the college-entrance exam to at least give themselves another option, Eidahl said.
"I was very pleased we're getting more students to participate," he added. "Our goal as a district is to graduate each and every student prepared for ... that post-secondary future."
The two learning areas in which state and federal education officials have pushed hardest — math and reading — saw increased scores in Ottumwa. Math scores went up a bit, from 21.6 to 21.7. Reading went from a 22.2 to a 22.5.
Though he prefers to use multiple test scores to see how students are doing, he is pleased to see this reflection of current efforts, he said. They'll keep working at increasing student achievement, he added, which brought up another point.
A quality he wants to see in district staff is one that will help students after high school, said Eidahl: persistence.
"The word we've talked about a lot as a district is 'grit.' Grit meaning perseverance, to stay the course when we challenge them with tough academic coursework. Without grit, they don't find success," he said.
One of the lessons he said successful organizations and individuals already know: Success might only come after failure.
"You will experience failure," Eidahl said. "You need to plow through it and learn from it ... get back up and push forward, stronger."
— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark