Fact check: Performance of Iowa's schools

Published: January 14 2014 | 5:02 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:07 am in


Gov. Terry Branstad passed sweeping education reform into law last summer. We're checking his claim that Iowa schools are improving their performance and their standing compared to other states around the nation.

Source of claim

Gov. Terry Branstad

The state uses a few different resources to assess education performance, one of which is the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) report. NAEP is  produced by the National Center for Education Statistics, which is the primary federal entity for analyzing data related to education. It is one of the only state by state comparisons of student progress.

According to  the 2013 NAEP report, Iowa's students have improved in some areas - like reading and math - but those improvements are stagnant over time.

For example, the report shows Iowa's fourth grade reading scores this year are higher than the state's score in 2011, but that score isn't significantly different from the state's score in 1992.

The report also shows:

-Iowa's average math score for fourth-grade students is higher than that of 2011 and higher than that of 1992. Iowa's average score is higher than that of nation's public schools.

-Iowa's average math score for eighth-grade students is not significantly different from 2011 and higher than that of 1990, but Iowa's average score is not significantly different from that of nation's public schools.

When looking at how Iowa ranks nationally, Iowa's scores are higher than the national average in 4th grade reading, 8th grade reading and 4th grade math. Iowa's average score in 8th grade math is not significantly different from the national average.

Staci Hupp, communications director for the Iowa Department of Education, said that while the department celebrates some of these improvements, they need to continue moving forward with the state's educational priorities which include recent efforts to support and strengthen teaching, raising standards and expectations and working to improve literacy as laid out in the education reform law passed last June.


Branstad said schools and students are improving their performance and their standing compared to other states. Though the NAEP report shows improvement in some subject areas among Iowa students, it also indicates stagnation. We score this claim as mostly true.


2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress:  http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2014451

How states are performing: http://nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2013/#/state-performance

Statement from Iowa Department of Education: https://www.educateiowa.gov/article/2013/11/25/iowa-s-naep-results-show-some-gains-need-improvement

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