Nearly two-thirds of Iowa public schools failed to meet accountability targets under the No Child Left Behind law last year, the state reported Tuesday.
That's up from one-half a year earlier.
Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck said the ballooning list provides evidence that Congress should revise the federal accountability system that raises targets every year.
Buck said the “one-size-fits-all” federal system is unfair and unequipped to drive schools toward better outcomes for students.
“No Child Left Behind's arbitrary rules fail to recognize that students come to school with different starting points,” he said. “The rules also fail to reward schools that are making progress with the most disadvantaged students.”
Staci Hupp, spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Education, said Iowa officials are “looking at our options” regarding applying to the Obama administration for a waiver of the accountability targets. A prior Iowa application for a waiver was rejected. State officials would prefer that Congress revise the law, she said.
“What we hope happens at the federal level is that there's some work in Congress to reauthorize the law, and in that reauthorization that there are revisions to make the rules make a little more sense,” Hupp said.
The revised system should recognize the growth and progress schools make, she said.
Although the law expired in 2007, Congress never replaced it. Until the law is rewritten, districts must comply with it.
Proficiency targets have risen annually under the bipartisan federal education law passed in 2001. In Iowa, targets jumped to 94 percent last year, up from 80 percent a year earlier, putting more schools on the list.
When children are tested this school year, the law says 100 percent of them must be proficient on math and reading tests. High-poverty schools face consequences if they continue to miss annual targets.
Statewide, 869 of 1,361 public schools failed to meet targets for test participation and proficiency in reading and mathematics in the 2012-13 school year.
The Council Bluffs Community Schools saw “pockets” of improvement but the district remains designated a “district in need of improvement” for not meeting targets in consecutive years for certain student groups.
Ann Mausbach, director of curriculum and instruction in the Council Bluffs Community Schools, said 94 percent proficiency was “a little bit of an unrealistic goal.”
“I hate being on the list. We don't welcome that. But we're on the list. And there's a ton of people that are, in Iowa, and more and more are on,” Mausbach said. “What we want to do is just continue to look at the subgroups, look at our overall achievement, and what are we doing to improve.”
On Friday, the Nebraska Department of Education plans to release federal accountability data for its districts.