116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / News / Education / K-12 Education
Cedar Rapids schools improving academic achievement, but some students still fall behind
New data moves 8 schools off list targeting students for needing support
CEDAR RAPIDS — The majority of Cedar Rapids schools maintained or improved their Iowa School Report Card rating in the last year, with Erskine Elementary School improving by an “almost unheard of” two levels, according to Deputy Superintendent Nicole Kooiker.
However, many of those schools also have been identified as having some historically underserved groups of students still underachieve after three years of targeted intervention, the school performance results show.
District officials presented the data and action steps Monday to the school board as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal law that holds schools accountable for how students learn and achieve that affects all students in public schools.
Schools are scored based on state assessments, academic achievement, student growth, progress in achieving English Language Learning proficiency, conditions for learning survey — which gathers information about how students feel about the culture and climate of their school — graduation rate and how prepared students are for life after high school.
There are six categories in Iowa performance ratings. Highest to lowest, the categories are exceptional, high performing, commendable, acceptable, needs improvement and priority.
Every three years, the accountability system also identifies schools that need to make “comprehensive” improvements. To qualify for that designation, those schools have to receive either Title 1 funding and score in the bottom 5 percent of schools receiving those additional federal dollars, or have a graduation rate below 67.1 percent.
Seven Cedar Rapids schools continue to see groups of students identified as targeted — performing as low as the lowest 5 percent of schools in Iowa after three years. Those schools are Kennedy, Washington and Jefferson high schools, Franklin and Wilson middle schools, McKinley STEAM Academy and Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy.
The targeted subgroup of students are broken down by racial and ethnic groups, students in English Language Learner programs, students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and students in the Individualized Education Program.
As part of Every Student Succeeds Act, the district is working with school improvement consultants from Grant Wood Area Education Agency and the state to build action plans for the next three years to improve learning outcomes, said Cedar Rapids curriculum coordinator Doreen Underwood.
District officials also are reviewing curriculum to ensure it aligns with state requirements. Recently, the district purchased a new K-8 math curriculum, which currently is being implemented. Cedar Rapids curriculum coordinator Lonna Anderson said the district also is reviewing middle school science resources and determining K-12 literacy needs.
The district is considering investing in a curriculum management tool, which would create a single place for teachers, parents and guardians to access school courses and standards.
This would solve two things, Anderson said. “It would help our teachers and it would help our parents know what we’re teaching and expecting,” she said. “We watch our young teachers — our new teachers to the profession — struggle to find out what it is we’re supposed to be teaching, and we want to help them."
During the 2022 Iowa Legislative session, the Iowa Senate passed a bill, Senate File 2369, that would require schools to publish their curriculum online for parents and guardians to access. The bill, which included other provisions, died in the Iowa House.
Such an online requirement would allow adults to “log in to the system very easily,” Anderson said.
While there is work to be done, district officials celebrated achievements made in the last year:
- Erskine Elementary — which improved its accountability by two levels — went from “needs improvement” to “commendable” in the last year.
- 88 percent — or 28 out of 32 Cedar Rapids schools — maintained or improved their accountability by at least one level.
- 25 percent or eight out of 32 of Cedar Rapids schools moved from a priority or needs improvement rating to acceptable or commendable.
- Nine schools dropped at least one demographic subgroup from their targeted status. Eight of the nine now have no targeted subgroups.
- 75 percent or 24 out of 32 schools improved their overall Every Student Succeeds Act scores.
- Eight schools have come off the Every Student Succeeds Act designation list.
Reports for every Iowa public school are available online at iaschoolperformance.gov.
Comments: (319) 398-8411; email@example.com