Despite Top-Down Standards Iowa Trails in Student Achievement

A new study commissioned by the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance and EducationNext was recently released.  They compared student achievement internationally and among the states.  They studied the improvement trend in 41 states from 1992 to 2011 looking at four different U.S. tests specifically looking at performance in math, science and reading of students who at the time of testing were in 4th or 8th grade.

Internationally, the United States is barely keeping pace with the rest of the world.  Within the United States, Iowa is last in terms of student achievement showing the slowest rate of improvement.  The study also demonstrated that our increase in education dollars have done nothing to help increase test scores.  Iowa from 1992-2011 under three different administrations (technically four if you count Governor Branstad’s 5th term as a new administration) has seen little growth in student achievement even after an increased involvement by the state in education.

Local control has been diminished, centralization increased and student achievement in our state is no better off.  Even with increased spending, the introduction of the Iowa Core Curriculum along with other reforms kids are lagging behind.

Governor Branstad in his fifth term has shown the same proclivity to push centralized education and double-down on top-down standards so there is little evidence (as the Common Core State Standards have not been field tested – anywhere) that Iowa will improve its standing.

Perhaps it is time to change things up and see how we can lead the nation in education reform rather than mimic other states in adopting unproven standards.  Perhaps it is time to respect once again honor our longstanding tradition of local control which placed Iowa as a leader in education and decentralize and let parents and school boards come up with local solutions.  Perhaps it is time to empower parents in making educational decisions for their children with real choice instead of shoddy public school options.

The current course of action right now is more of the same and it is leading Iowa toward failure.  Increased decentralization and greater school choice would help buck the trend.

Originally posted at the From The Right Blog at The Des Moines Register.