Many factors affect school test scores

I was glad to read the March 21 guest column by Scott McLeod (“Outside interests won’t put Iowa first”) to counter Gov. Terry Branstad and the head of the Iowa Department of Education, Jason Glass, with their effort to tie teacher pay to test scores.

They keep harping on the fact that Iowa’s students led the nation in reading and math scores in the 1990s, but have fallen to the middle of the pack on national exams.

Here’s what we don’t hear from the DOE about the changes in our student population in the last 20 years: 1) The increase in children in poverty, measured by the increase of free/reduced lunches. 2) The increase in children who come from homes where English is not the first language.

We also never hear that Finland, which they often use as the model because its test scores are so high, is a welfare state where children get free health, dental and counseling services. In Finland, 95 percent of the teachers belong to the teachers’ union, and the minister of education involves the union in any reform efforts.

Yes, our test scores have declined, but there are a lot of key factors involved that we never hear about. We are already putting too much emphasis on standardized tests. We shouldn’t tie teacher pay to them.

Gary Sanders

Iowa City


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