Opportunity to Learn Index Score: 39% (35th)
Percentage of Students at National Proficient Level or Above: 36% (Tied-10th)



Disadvantaged Student Group (1) Opportunity to Learn
(compared to White, non-Latino students
Native American 67%         
Black 33%         
Latino 42%         
Poverty (FARL) (2) 76%         

Iowa ranks 10th among the states when the Opportunity to Learn of the state’s historically disadvantaged students is combined with a measure of educational quality (3). However, Iowa’s very few Black, Latino and Native American students, taken together, have less than 40 percent of the opportunity to attend the state’s best-supported, best-performing schools than the state’s White, non-Latino students. A low-income student has less than 80 percent of the opportunity to learn of the average White, non-Latino student.

Opportunity to Learn Core Resource Resource Access Rank
Access to High Quality Early Childhood Education (4) 33rd       
Access to Highly Qualified Teachers (5) 15th        
Access to Instructional Materials (6) 28th        
Access to College Preparatory Curriculum (7) 11th        

The key Opportunity to Learn resources used in this report are high quality early childhood education, highly effective teachers, well-funded instructional materials and a college preparatory curriculum. All students must have equitable access to key educational resources if they are to have equitable opportunities for success.

Key Research Findings: Iowa is one of a group of states with comparatively high graduation rates, a comparatively low percentage of students from disadvantaged groups and comparatively low funding for instruction. High-performing schools in states of this type tend to have greater percentages of more experienced teachers who are particularly effective when they have smaller class sizes, while their low-performing schools have lesser percentages of highly qualified teachers.

Opportunity for Success

Native American, Black, Latino and low-income students are more likely than White, non-Latino students in Iowa to be disadvantaged by attending schools where they have little chance of becoming proficient in basic skills and graduating on time. Black students are more than twice as likely to find themselves in such schools than are White, non-Latino students.

Dividing the percentages of Native American, Black and Latino students in these “drop-out factories” by the percentage of White, non-Latino students in those schools gives us the comparative disadvantage of each group: (Higher numbers are worse: more of a disadvantage)

Group Comparative Disadvantage
Native American students 140%         
Asian American students* 184%         
Black, non-Latino students 250%         
Latino students 170%         
Low income students 150%         
Comparison is to all White, non-Latino students 100%         

Taking steps to improve access to key resources, improving the teacher-to-student ratio and increasing the percentage of highly effective teachers in the state’s less effective schools will improve the Opportunity to Learn of the state’s minority and low-income students.

Economic Consequences(8)

Total Annual Economic Burden to Taxpayers Because of Inequity: $101 million(9)

Potential Return on School Improvement Investment:
(Differences attributable to high school graduation per annual cohort)
State Annual Total Lifetime Health Loss
$20 million
State Annual Crime-Related Loss
$13 million
State Tax Losses (Lifetime)
$68 million
Annual Lost Lifetime Earnings
(Difference attributable to high school graduation per annual cohort)
$141 million
Net Annual Potential Revenue Increase from Equity
(After deducting estimated cost of improving schools)
$62 million

Social and Civic Consequences

Changes attributable to educational equalization with highest performing large group:

College Graduation (25 years of age+)(10)
Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access
  Black, Latino, Native American (total) 75%
Employment (11)
Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access
  With High School Diploma 4%
  Further Increase with Bachelor's Degree 3%
Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access
  With High School Diploma 35%
  Further Increase with Bachelor's Degree 56%
Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access
  Black, non-Latino 42%
  Latino 45%
Civic Engagement(14) (National Election Participation)
  Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access 1%
Decrease Expected Attributable to Equitable Access to Education
  Black, non-Latino -92%
  Latino -28%

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* Performance for sub-groups of the Asian American populations (Hmong, Cambodian, etc.) varies drastically. Further federal and state disaggregation of data is needed to more accurately speak to performance results of Asian Americans.

(1) Enrollments (2005/6): Native American (2,877), Asian American (9,360), Black, non-Latino (24,646), Latino (28,145), White, non-Latino (418,454), FARL
(2) Students eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch.  This measure is similar to the children living in poverty: Native American (<1%), Asian
American (15%), Black, non-Latino (39%), Latino (32%), White, non-Latino (12%).
(3) The NAEP percentage of all public school students scoring at or above proficiency for Grade 8 Reading is used as a proxy for system quality.
(4) Access for 4-year-olds: NIEER Yearbook.
(5) Ratio of disadvantaged to advantaged student access: State Consolidated Performance Reports for School Year 2004/5 in Peske, Heather G. and Kati Haycock: Teaching Inequality: How Poor and Minority Students are Shortchanged on Teacher Quality. The Education Trust, June 2006.
(6) NCES.
(7) Access to AP Math; USED/OCR.
(8) Earnings and Revenue: Levin, Henry. The Costs and Benefits of an Excellent Education for All of America’s Students. Columbia University, January 2007.
(9) Numbers are rounded.
(10) U.S. Census, American Community Survey (ACS), 2006.
(11) ACS.
(12) ACS.
(13) National Survey of Children’s Health, Indicator 6.1.
(14) Potential Civic Engagement is represented by national voting rates by educational attainment applied to adult educational attainment of the state. U.S. Census Bureau. Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2004; American Community Survey, Educational Attainment Adult Population. 2004 Voting Turnout Rate from United States Election Project:
(15) Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report: Education and Correctional Populations, January 2003.