Greetings Mackinzie Ryan, Des Moines Register Editors, Cedar Rapids Gazette Editors and all

Register reporter Mackinzie Ryan’s 460 word article headlined, Iowa kids improve on science exams

 in the 10-27-16 Des Moines Register was misleading at best, and evil at worst, as it referred to the Nation’s Report Card, 

It  claimed, Between 2009 and 2015, Iowa’s scores rose 2 points among fourth-graders, from 157 to 159. The 300-point tests, which asked fourth-graders about subjects such as animal adaptation and recycling to conserve resources, are designed to be rigorous.”

Test scores went up 2 points,  1.728%,  in 6 years and the Register called it an improvement!!   It’s in the noise level!!  A score of 159 out of 300 total points is only 53% .   A score of only 59% used to be an F—down from 75% 60 years ago!!  And the article failed to mention the difference between basic proficiency and grade level.  Grade level scores in reading actually fell between 2009 and 2015 for both 4th grade and 8th grade, while basic levels improved less than 1%.

And as a further Register insult to education and Iowans, its editors refused to publish Dr. Atkinson’s following Op Ed.   School officials will not improve schools so long as they can blame school failures on ‘defective kids’ and so long as they don’t have effective performance measures, that prevent them from bogusly believing the schools are performing perfectly—with no reason to change!! 

And here is some additional news!

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is mandating the cessation of the practice of blaming students for poor performance rather than fixing curriculum and teaching.  Iowa uses its own curriculum for reading that is based on memorization, which is well known will not work with certain learning styles.  In addition, a popular phonics program used is so bad it also will not work with certain learning styles.  Both of these violate ESSA. 

It appears a class action lawsuit will be needed to force Iowa education back on the track it left sixty years ago.

Here is Dr. Sue’s outstanding Op Ed, for the Register to reconsider!


Iowa educators are officially at a loss to explain both the drop in student proficiencies as well as the lack of improvement toward the low state standard of 41st National Percentile Rank (NPR),  (when the national standard is 65th NPR) on the Iowa Assessments.  Evident by the past 60 years, Iowa educators would have falsely blamed the poor results on various demographic groups of students, thus openly admitting the embedded bias in education theories being used, and denying to these students their 14th Amendment civil right to access education (according to Supreme Court rulings), but accountability is now being applied through national legislation.  A brief history of how Iowa education got to this situation will provide the missing explanation as well as the remedy.

After the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs Board of Education, public education in this country began changing from concept-based to memorization in both curriculum content and teaching methods.  Students who could not succeed in this system were falsely considered “disabled”, in lieu of an in-depth analysis of the system theories, content and teaching.  This bias increased dramatically after the national 1975 legislation regarding Special Education.  In addition, test scores on the Iowa Assessments for “disabled” students were not counted in determining the average for a school or the state as a whole.  Whenever 50% of the counted scores fell below passing, the tests were “renormed” (standards were lowered) to inflate the results.  (On average this occurred about every three years.)  Only the “proficient” students took the national NAEP tests, but by the early 1990s even those scores began falling in relationship to other states that had not taken the same drastic steps as Iowa. 

By 2001, Congress passed No Child Left Behind, requiring (among other things) that all test scores be counted and that all students show proficiency improvement.  States were required to adopt a starting proficiency standard and then raise student proficiencies up to the national grade level standard.  Iowa chose 41st NPR and remains stuck there to this day, continuing the embedded bias.  In December 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law, forbidding the use of falsely blaming students for poor performance – and requiring accountability.

Iowa is at a loss because the excuses used for the past 60 years to artificially appear to be good are no longer at their disposal, and they must actually change their education theories.  Initial attempts by some Iowa educators to write their own curriculum proved so inept and lacking in knowledge of concepts that the math and science had to be replaced by the national Common Core.  While schools claim in annual reports to the state that they use this, the truth of the matter is that they lack the training to effectively teach it.  Every day teachers dilute the concepts with aspects of a curriculum based on memorization, thus holding back improved proficiencies.  Iowa educators also attempted to write an Iowa Core reading curriculum that also shows how inept they are at understanding concept-based curriculum.  This needs to be replaced with the national Common Core reading curriculum. 

60 years ago, a phonics curriculum covered all letters of the alphabet, as well as combinations (so no memorization was necessary) and immigrants could be successfully taught basic English in about twelve weeks.  Today, the phonics curriculum does not even cover all letters of the alphabet, making memorization of sight words a requirement (thus leaving out all students whose learning style is not conducive to this), and no one in education is asking if a better phonics curriculum exists.  In addition, on the web site for the National Council on Teacher Quality (that performs assessments of teacher training programs in all states and has assessed Iowa’s as a failure every year to date), a report posted in the last few months shows a study on dyslexia proving it is not a medical disability but a product of ineffective curriculum and ineffective teaching.

The Iowa education system is at a loss to explain its poor performance because all of its excuses for the past sixty years have been removed and it is now required to do the in-depth analysis it should have been doing for the past sixty years but has failed to perform.  The real question is whether they even have the skills to do this type of analysis.  The media has accommodated all of this manipulation of information for 60years – thus abdicating its watchdog role for the public – begging the question of whether or not they understand the situation any better than the “professional educators”!

Sue Atkinson, PhD

Baxter IA 50028


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