New Education Measuring System Shows Des Moines Schools Need Support

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Iowa Department of Education is launching a new system to judge school accountability, and the initial results show dozens of Des Moines schools are falling short.

The new system is required under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. According to the Department of Education, the new law allows the state to take a more supportive and collaborative approach with schools who don't meet the preferred target status.

“Our next steps are to provide support to schools whether they are comprehensive schools that need support across all groups of students or schools that are receiving targeted support and assistance,” said Ryan Wise, director of the Iowa Department of Education.

Throughout the state, 34 schools were classified as needing comprehensive support. This means they are at the bottom of performance charts or have a graduation rate below 67 percent.

Five Des Moines public schools fell into this category, including Goodrell Middle School.

“I was born and raised here in Des Moines. I attended Des Moines public schools growing up. I even attended May Goodrell myself. Back then, the Des Moines public schools and May Goodrell were some of the top schools in the state, and [in] 30-plus years, it seems the school district has backslid,” said Blaine Hundall.

Hundall now has a sixth-grade student attending Goodrell, the same middle school that he did. He is worried his daughter is not receiving the same education he once did.

"We were concerned when she would come home and my wife would ask her, ‘what did you learn today,’ and she would say ‘nothing,'" Hundall said.

She explained the problem was disruptive classes, so the Hundalls felt they had no choice but to add Educational Resource Associates in West Des Moines to her schedule outside of attending Goodrell.

“Now, we’re paying a lot of money and taking her over there twice a week making sure her math and her reading skills don’t diminish so she can keep progressing,” Hundall said.

According to the new Iowa School Performance Profiles released Tuesday, Goodrell has the lowest index score in the Des Moines area, falling behind the state average significantly in reading and math proficiency.

Goodrell's Performance Assessment

“She’s where she needs to be right now, but at the end of this year she needs to be at the sixth-grade level, not at the fifth-grade level, and if she’s not getting any education done in the classrooms because there are so many disturbances and so forth, then it’s not going to happen,” Hundall said.

Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Ahart was not available for an interview, but he said in a news release Tuesday, “This new measure does not tell us anything today that we did not know yesterday. As we educate thousands of students who live in poverty, who are English language learners, and who have special education needs, we know the challenges they face in the classroom. No law is going to change our commitment to support every one of our students.”

Two elementary schools and two other middle schools in Des Moines are being identified for comprehensive support as well. They include King Elementary School, Moore Elementary School, Harding Middle School and Hiatt Middle School.  There were 32 other schools in the district that were classified as needing only targeted support toward certain subgroups such as special education, English language learners and race.

You can see full Iowa School Performance Profiles by clicking here.

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