For the last year, one of the most repeated buzz-word combinations in education has been the "Iowa Core". The State of Iowa has worked to develop a philosophy of improving Iowa's educational system to put the state back on top in the nation through a series of goals for student achievement. Meeting the goals of the Iowa Core is one of the biggest challenges facing school districts in the state. And, being able to measure the progress of students in reaching the Iowa Core goals is also changing.
For students in the Emmetsburg Community School District, the new system of testing student accomplishments, called the Iowa Assessments, has yielded the first analysis of how students are doing in meeting the Iowa Core goals. After testing earlier this Spring, preliminary results have been returned to the local district for review.
Those results were shared with the Emmetsburg School Board during its May meeting.
"The Iowa Assessments have taken the place of the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and the Iowa Test of Educational Development," explained High School Principal Jay Jurrens. "This was our first year of doing the Iowa Assessment and we really weren't sure what to expect. We talked about the Middle School a lot last year as we were named a School In Need of Assistance, due to our Special Education testing, and when we got our data back from the Assessments, I'll be frank, we were a little disappointed with our Middle School scores we did not see what we wanted to see."
Jurrens noted that not all of the data has been compiled by the Iowa Assessments for the district, so further results are still pending. One factor of the Iowa Assessments is that rather than providing a ranking for the student in terms of percentile ranking, the new testing presents a result based on proficiency of the student in the subject area.
"As you can see, we've got some work to do," Jurrens told school board members as they looked over preliminary results for the Middle school students in grades five through eight. "Mr. Matlage and myself will be working through this Spring to make plans for next year to address this. Our teachers worked very hard this year with our students and whether these results were due to the new test, I don't know. I do know that our teachers were disappointed with the results on how the kids did, because they truly believe the kids are better than the scores show."
Jurrens noted that throughout the year, STAR testing in the Middle School had shown positive growth for the students.
For the high school, the news was different.
"In the high school, we're very excited about our results," Jurrens noted. "If you recall, we have the one-to-one computer initiative this year, and when it was first proposed, it was suggested that it may help our standardized testing scores. Now, I'm not going to stand here as say that it really helped our students, but I'm glad to say it didn't hurt them, either, and I think that's a real positive."
Jurrens took note of reading scores for 11th graders, with 85 percent being proficient. "Our eleventh graders, that's the grade the state looks at," Jurrens said. "75 percent are proficient and 10 percent are advanced beyond proficient. Our juniors are 84 percent proficient in math, 85 percent are proficient in science, 90 percent proficient in social studies and 83 percent in written expression."
Sophomores were not as high as juniors, according to Jurrens, but still very acceptable. Freshmen students showed the expected level of scoring for the transition to high school.
"The federal No Child Left Behind legislation requires these numbers to be at 100 percent in two years," Jurrens noted. "To meet that goal, this year we're supposed to be at 88 percent proficiency. And that goes for every school in the United States. Next year, its' supposed to jump to 93 percent and then 100 percent the year after that."
Jurrens also noted the state has written the federal government requesting a waiver for the No Child Left Behind requirements, but no decision has been made on the request.
West Elementary Principal Joe Carter shared several highlights from the elementary level, with the board. Those highlights included an increase in proficiency in Reading for First and Third graders, with a slight decrease for Second and Fourth graders. In Math, First through Third graders saw improvement in their proficiency, while Fourth Graders lost ground in their proficiency.
"We saw a lot of good things in our results," Carter explained, "and yet, there is room for improvement. Our teachers will be meeting and working on some new strategies. And, we have a new math series for our fourth graders which is tied more closely to the Core, so we are hopeful we will see improvement in that area next year."