A challenge, an opportunity
Though Iowa’s national rankings are low, state aligns education for strong future
Iowa continues to rank at or near the bottom of the nation when it comes to basic reading proficiency among students on Individualized Education Programs (IEP).
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that fourth-grade students on IEPs lag behind their non-disabled peers in reading by 59 percentage points. Twenty percent of Iowa fourth grade students on IEPs performed at or above basic proficient levels in reading, compared to 79 percent of students who are not on IEPs.
Known as the achievement gap, that 59 percent difference puts Iowa at the very bottom of the ranking of states with education gaps.
“The NAEP scores concur with the results of the Iowa Assessments,” said Iowa’s Director of Special Education Barbara Guy. “These data, taken together, clearly identify that we are not yet reaching the results we would like.”
Twenty other states have a higher percent of students on IEPs who are at or above basic reading proficiency and still have gaps. Massachusetts,
a leader in education reform in the country, bears that out. The state has an achievement gap of 45 percent. Yet the students as a whole perform better on the NAEP: 41 percent of students on IEPs are at basic levels of proficiency, and 86 percent of non-IEP students are proficient.
Acknowledging the flat rate of growth in reading proficiency of all Iowa students, Iowa's education system is working hard in a number of areas. Consider:
- Implementation of the Iowa Core in schools statewide and adapting the state’s system of assessments. The Iowa Core represents the state’s standard and expectations for what students should know and be able to do in kindergarten through 12th grade.
- Iowa’s education system is working together to put in place Response to Intervention, also known as Multi-tier Systems of Support (MTSS). It is a proven, evidence-based practice to help schools identify, and intervene with, all readers early on and to customize instruction to fit their needs. One of the first goals of MTSS in Iowa is to get all students reading proficiently by the end of third grade.
- As per the Legislature, districts are creating teacher leadership positions, in which seasoned classroom veterans work with other educators to ensure effective delivery of coursework. The effort better utilizes the expertise of top teachers to improve classroom instruction and to raise student achievement.
“While it’s essential to be part of the broader education reform, we know that is not sufficient for students with IEPs,” Guy said.
“We cannot expect our teachers to refocus classroom instruction and methods overnight without the proper tools. So in addition to our partnerships in implementing the Iowa Core and MTSS, we will continue to identify instructional strategies and other supports that are specific to students on IEPs.
“In order for us to improve, we need to know where we stand. And with the various facets of education reform, we will get the results we all want.”