The Governor's Special Assistant for Education

Linda Fandel

Iowa can do better than 17th in science

May 18, 2012

New science test scores are more evidence Iowa needs to improve the quailty of education we are providing.

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress – the only state-by- state comparison – Iowa eighth-graders ranked 17th in science in 2011, with 12 states or jurisdictions scoring significantly higher.

North Dakota was No. 1, with an average score of 164, compared to Iowa’s average score of 157.

There’s a tendency to blame demographics, such as the growing share of low-income children in Iowa, for our state’s stagnant performance on national tests. That’s a mistake.  In Iowa, 38 percent of eighth-graders in 2011 were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch,  a significant share of students.

But here is the breakdown of eighth-graders eligible for free or reduced-price lunch in the top five science states:

1)      North Dakota – 31 percent

2)      Montana – 38 percent

3)      Vermont – 34 percent

4)      New Hampshire – 23 percent

5)      South Dakota -  35 percent

Most of those states also have a significant share of students from families with very modest incomes. Yet their science scores are relatively strong. That suggests they are doing a better job of educating kids.

Iowa needs to learn from their success. We also stand to benefit from the Next Generation Science Standards, with the first draft available for public review until June 1. We had better figure out quickly what Iowa needs to do differently because a great science education can be a ticket to a great career – and missing out on a great science education slams the door shut.

Read more about the national science exam.

Learn about the Next Generation Science Standards.

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One Response to "Iowa can do better than 17th in science"

  1. It might help if some of our politicians were better role models. A significant number of Iowa’s legislators, mostly Republicans, don’t believe in evolution–the very basis of biological studies. Many also deny that the earth is warming, thus contradicting thermometer readings. If they grant warming, many deny that human activity has anything to do with it, in spite of the fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that humans pump millions of pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. Science? Don’t confuse them with the facts.

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