'Achievement gap' still a concern for Iowa education officials

But other areas have seen incremental improvements, Glass notes in

Iowa’s education chief said Thursday that Iowa students have made some improvements in achievement over the past year, but areas of concern remain as policy makers and elected officials consider ways to reform Iowa’s education system.

“We see some incremental improvements in some areas and that’s good news I think for the state. Our enrollment seems to be trending up and that’s good news, too,” said Glass, who has served as Gov. Terry Branstad’s director of the Iowa Department of Education for the past two years.

Glass said the report is a mixed bag for Iowa’s 348 school districts.

“We see some encouraging news, but there’s still plenty of work ahead,” he said. “We still face a large and chronic achievement gap."

“There are places where we’ve stagnated; there are places where I think we’ve made some improvements. As a state we seem to be slowly trending up in the right direction overall, but our achievement gaps still persist.”

The report provides a wide range of state-level data, including shifts in student populations and demographics, teacher salaries and characteristics, student achievement results and school financial information.

The report includes the most recent data through the 2011-12 school year.

Highlights include:

Students in Public Schools

  • 19.3%: Percentage of minority student enrollment, up from 14.9 percent in 2008-09 and 5.5 percent in 1990.
  • 40.1%: Percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, up from 27 percent a decade ago.
  • 88.3%: Four-year graduation rate for the Class of 2011.
  • 39.4%: Percentage of students in the Class of 2012 who enrolled in high-level mathematics courses, including calculus and trigonometry.
  • 65.9%: Percentage of students in the Class of 2012 who reported taking chemistry; 26.9 percent enrolled in physics.
  • 22.1: ACT composite score among 63 percent of students in Iowa’s Class of 2012 who were tested. The national average was 21.1 out of a possible 36.
  • 34,513: The number of students enrolled concurrently in high school and community college courses, up from 21,587 in 2006-07.

Schools and Teachers

  • 351: The number of Iowa school districts in 2011-12; there were 359 the year before and 431 in 1990.
  • 33,938: The number of full-time public school teachers, up slightly from 33,610 in 2000-01.
  • $50,634: The average salary for public school teachers in 2010-11, up from $49,626 the previous school year. Iowa ranks 25th nationally in teacher pay and 6th among Midwestern states.
  • 96%: Percentage of Iowa school districts that offered preschool in 2011-12, up from 83.4 percent in 2008-09.
  • 41.8: Average age of Iowa’s full-time public school teachers.

School Finance

  • 81%: Percentage of total general fund spending in public schools for salaries and benefits.
  • $9,484: Iowa’s average per-student expenditure in 2010-11. The amount is about the same as the year before ($9,455).
  • 70.8%: Percentage of total general fund spending in Iowa public schools dedicated to student instruction in 2010-11; up from 68.6 percent in 1997-98.

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