The Iowa School Report Card: Missing the Mark


The new Iowa School Report Card misses the mark by overlooking the growth students are actually making in the classroom.

The Iowa Department of Education has released the Iowa School Report Card, a tool that is supposed to measure all public schools in the state. 

However, from an over-reliance on the Iowa Assessments to not acknowledging the growth being made by many students, there are several areas of concern with this new tool.

Below is a message from Superintendent Tom Ahart sharing his concerns about the Iowa School Report Card. In addition, be sure to watch the video embedded below which includes additional information.

In 2013, the Iowa legislature passed a law requiring the creation of a system to rank each school in the state. As a result, the Iowa Department of Education has launched the Iowa School Report Card.

We use a variety of information and data in Des Moines Public Schools to look at the growth and success of our students and schools … information that is presented and made available year-in and year-out.

Unfortunately, this new Report Card doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know.

In fact, more than 75% of the information the Report Card is based on comes from the Iowa Assessments. Think about that: every school in Iowa is being graded largely upon the result of one test given on one day out of the entire school year. And what’s more, in a couple of years the state will no longer be using the Iowa Assessment as it doesn’t align with the curriculum taught in school and, frankly, is the wrong type of test to measure student progress.

Perhaps the biggest concern with this Report Card is that it does not take into account the real growth being made by students. In Des Moines, 3/4 of our students qualify for free-or-reduced-price meals and one out of five students are English Language Learners. Those are both real factors that impact learning. Under this Report Card, an ELL student may make several years’ worth of progress in a single school year yet, because they do not reach a number on a single test, the State of Iowa considers that they and their school has failed. [NOTE: To read an actual example of how this applies to two DMPS students, click here.]

I have some serious concerns about this Report Card. I do, however, want you to be aware of it and the information it includes. Be sure to watch this video which includes our director of research and data, Dr. Mary Grinstead, talking about what is included in the Report Card:

In the end, the new Iowa School Report Card does little to help education. As a result, it isn’t something that is going to influence or shape the decisions we make at Des Moines Public Schools.

Instead, our focus will continue to be on the areas we know are making a difference for our students, efforts that have led to a nine percent increase in the graduation rate in just six years.

Such as expanding AP courses throughout all of our high schools … creating more International Baccalaureate schools … increasing access to the arts across all grade levels … expanding participation in activities at our middle schools … or making our district a leader in science and math education.

In short, we will do what we need to do to help our diverse student body grow and succeed each and every day of the school year.

Thank you to our teachers for their great work in the classroom, and to our parents and the entire community for your support of Des Moines Public Schools.

To access the Iowa School Report Card, click here.

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