SIOUX CITY | Some metro area schools received top marks while others showed room for improvement, according to the latest Iowa School Report Card.
The grading system, run by the Iowa Department of Education, evaluates and rates each elementary, middle and high school on a six-tier scale based on test scores and other standardized measurements. The system was developed to meet a state legislative requirement, so parents, school officials and others can gauge success and academic growth of K-12 public schools.
No metro school reached the top-tier, Exceptional, while one, Hunt Elementary School in Sioux City, placed in the lowest level, Priority, for the 2016-17 year. The Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School was the only metro school in the second-highest tier, High-Performing, while three Sioux City public schools -- Irving Elementary, North High, West High and West Middle -- were placed in the second-lowest tier, Needs Improving.
The remainder fell into the Commendable or Acceptable categories, or the district was unable to rate the school for reasons such as newly-opened buildings.
Compared with the previous year, five Sioux City schools improved, while ratings for two schools fell. North High and Irving moved up one spot from the Priority category last year, Liberty Elementary advanced from Needs Improvement to Acceptable and Bryant Elementary and Sunnyside Elementary both improved from Acceptable to Commendable.
Compared to 2015-16, Spalding Park Elementary moved down one spot from Commendable to Acceptable, and West Middle went from Acceptable to Needs Improvement.
Crescent Park, East High, East Middle, Leeds Elementary, Liberty Elementary, North Middle and Riverside Elementary remained at the Acceptable level in 2016-17. Loess Hills Elementary, which could not be rated the previous school year, also received an Acceptable score.
The rest of the Sioux City School District schools to be scored were put at the Acceptable spot: East High, East Middle, North Middle and the elementary schools of Liberty, Loess Hills, Riverside, Unity and Spalding Park.
State officials were not able to rate Loess Hills Elementary, Morningside Elementary and Nodland Elementary, according to the report.
Superintendent Paul Gausman said the report card is one tool that will help the district continue to identify areas where schools can improve, but added that the district also has its own metrics to measure success.
"These improvements demonstrate the work our schools and district are doing under the Focus 2022 Strategic Plan for the Sioux City Community School District. Focus 2022 concentrates on many of the same indicators as the rating system, such as academic growth, graduation rates, staff retention, student attendance, and college and career readiness," Gausman said in a statement Thursday to The Journal.
Compared to the 2015-16 school year, Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School's rating rose one spot from Commendable to High-Performing. SB-L Middle School dropped from Commendable to Acceptable while the SB-L Elementary School's rating remained at Acceptable.
For the 2016-17 school year, the Woodbury Central Elementary School in Moville, and Westwood High School in Sloan were rated High-Performing.
The Westwood Elementary School was placed in the Needs Improvement tier, however. The Woodbury Central Elementary was rated Commendable and the Middle School was Acceptable.
The River Valley School District elementary, middle and high schools in Correctionville and Washta also were in the Acceptable Category.
The Lawton-Bronson Elementary scored a Commendable mark while the middle and high schools were rated Acceptable.
Ratings were based on attendance, graduation rate, annual expected student growth, college and career readiness and related growth, closing achievement gaps, proficiency and staff retention.
Gausman said it is important to remember student achievement is measured in many ways, and the Iowa Department of Education report card is one such summary.
"The challenge I see with the rating system is that most of the data from the ratings is focused on the Iowa assessments," he said of the standardized tests. "The Iowa assessments do not currently measure curriculum and instruction aligned to the Iowa Standards. So, as a community, let’s remember the many data points that indicate school performance and achievement."