According to the standards dictated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Iowa saw a 12 percent increase in the number of schools identified as "schools in need of assistance." 643 public schools in the state did not meet federal benchmarks two years in a row.
Iowa officials say that’s because those benchmarks are raised arbitrarily each year, and do not account for progress made by struggling districts.
Director Brad Buck says it’s the most frustrating part of the legislation for schools on the local level.
"It’s this whole notion of proficiency, instead of dignifying the growth that occurs in districts," he says.
Buck says the federal education law has had some successes, like helping the department understand and appreciate accountability for student achievement.