By STACI HUPP firstname.lastname@example.org August 13, 2009
Iowa children fared better on state math and reading tests last year, but huge gaps remain between white students and their minority counterparts, new figures show.
"We cannot afford to lose any one of these students," Judy Jeffrey, the state's top education official, said at the annual School Administrators of Iowa conference Wednesday.
A report released by Jeffrey showed the share of Iowa fourth-, eighth- and 11th-graders who scored "proficient" on 2008-09 state tests jumped from the year before in every overall category except 11th-grade reading.
Fourth-graders took the biggest strides. The percentage of those students who showed a basic grasp of reading rose to 81.8 percent from 77.5 percent the year before.
The news was far worse when scores were broken down by race and ethnicity.
Fifty-three percent of Hispanics and 50.1 percent of African-Americans showed a basic grasp of reading in eighth grade. Although those results were higher than the year before, they still lagged far behind the 78.1 percent of proficient white eighth-graders.
"It's something not tolerable for us as a quality school system," Jeffrey said.
Eleventh-grade reading results slipped in every racial group except Hispanics. Their proficiency rate jumped almost 9 percentage points, to 57.7 percent.
A more complete report will be made public this fall.
Children take the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills in kindergarten through eighth grades.
High school students take the Iowa Tests of Educational Development.
The tests are used to hold schools accountable for student progress under the No Child Left Behind law.
Jeffrey said success starts with lessons that go beyond the basics.
State education officials are working on a blueprint that includes problem-solving, critical thinking, money management and other skills students will need in a global economy.
Iowa's core curriculum will be required in all high schools by 2012. Elementary and middle schools will follow in 2014.
Jeffrey also urged school administrators to ditch stale classroom lectures, which she said fall flat with a generation addicted to iPods, cell phones and Facebook.
"Multi-tasking and interaction with others is their norm, but then consider them walking across the threshold of our classroom doors," she said. "My question is, are we keeping pace?"