Letter to the Editor: Submitted by Dr. Stephen D. Regan

To the Editor:

Having spent most of my life in education as a student, teacher, coach, consultant, professor, and university dean, I am concerned about the lengthy downward achievement trend of Iowa students. Governors Harold Hughes (Democrat) and Robert D. Ray (Republican) took great pride in Iowa’s ranking as #1 in the ACT, SAT, and the Iowa Test of Educational Development, and Iowa Test of Basic Skills. The four assessments were unsurpassed among the statistical evaluations for validity and reliability.

Unfortunately,  Governor Terry Branstad and Governor Kim Reynolds disliked the Iowa State Education Association, most progressive educational endeavors, and many educational experts. Their lack of educational support is easily seen in the data.

The National Center for Educational Statistics ranks Iowa, at best, seventh in the nation; but notes that only 77% of the pupils attained “basic proficiency”. The National Assessment of Educational Progress states that only 40% are above academic proficiency. The National Education Association’s research indicates that Iowa’s 510,000 students  are only ranked 33rd in attendance, 29th in terms of staff per pupil, 39th in reception of Federal receipts, and 34th in terms of overall expenditure per student.

A US News and World Reports study indicated that Iowa ranked ninth in preparation for higher education. Fox Business’ data suggests that Iowa is not among the top ten in achievement, and Heaven Life also fails to rank Iowa among the top tier of states. Iowa’s own Department of Education claims that only 50% of our students are adequately prepared for post-secondary education.

Remember the days when we all glowed with pride that Iowa was #1 in the ACT and SAT scores? Today, Iowa ranks 12th in the SAT, albeit few students take that particular exam. The very popular assessment for Midwest colleges is the ACT which was created and headquartered in Iowa City. The ACT is extremely accurate according to test and measurement experts. Iowa has fallen to a dismal 18th among the states. Worse, the top states attained significantly higher scores than Iowa students.

Denying that Iowa’s education has not suffered in the last twenty-five years is ludicrous. Some argue that there are multiple causes. Arguably, the collegiate teacher training programs at many colleges are inadequate, the education expenditure is insufficient, and the politicizing of education is deleterious.

President Ronald Reagan was among the first to prognosticate the nation’s educational decline. Unfortunately, his disciples blamed the Democrats, turned schools into a political agenda, and have stridently fought educational reform ever since.

Learning is not a political football; it is a national necessity. Iowa cannot grow, enhance its economic possibilities, or attain the lofty goals spewed forth by both political parties unless we have the best possible education. Is it too much to ask that we strive to achieve the greatness we once possessed?

Can our politicians deal with real problems rather than imaginary concerns? Can my grandchildren obtain the quality education that I had?

Dr. Stephen D. Regan, Ed.D.
Cedar Rapids