September 27, 2022

Letter: Iowa students don’t rank well

The Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) has finally acknowledged that Iowa education is not up to the standards of many other states, something I have been saying for the past 20 years, since the state decided on low standards and a state assessment that went along with those low standards.

However, in trying to save face, the ISEA points to Iowa’s high graduation rate as a good thing, while hoping the public will not catch on to the fact that Iowa high school graduates are ranked 40th in the country in skill sets at graduation. Skill sets are important to the quality-of-life decisions in addition to workplace skills. So, having the highest high school graduation rate in the country means a large number of students completing high school in Iowa have skill sets lower than all but 10 states.

The ISEA also points to the increasing number of Iowa students taking the ACTs, but no mention of average scores. Facts show an increasing number of Iowa students going on to higher education from high school are dropping out at an increasing rate. Lower standards are responsible, and state assessments based on low standards, fail completely at telling educators where they stand with regard to any progress toward national standards.

On national assessments (NAEP), Iowa students rank in the bottom half of the country. The ISEA says the scores are in the middle, because they do not want the public to know how many states are actually doing better – the states in the top half.

The ISEA wants to place the blame on funding as the problem. What does funding have to do with the state choice of curriculum, state choice of assessments, and state standards for teacher training? Nothing!

Access the national Department of Education to get the national curriculum for each grade level and each discipline. Access the Iowa Department of Education for the state curriculum for each grade level and each discipline. Compare. There are more concepts included with the higher national standards.

Think of concepts as brain exercises. Doing the right exercises helps with development for all body parts being exercised. Memorization, on the other hand, is sitting back and watching someone else do the exercises (including thinking) and then narrating what is seen. No exercise, no benefit. Memorizers do not know how to assess the underlying concepts creating the surface facts they are seeing.

Sue Atkinson