Academic Achievement

Relative to other states, student performance in Iowa is higher than average. The Hawkeye State is 6 percentage points above the national average in the percentage of 4th graders at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math exam. The national average is 42%.

Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students

Iowa earns a low grade on academic achievement for low-income and minority students. Only 13% of Hispanic 8th graders score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math exam. The national average is 21%.

Return on Investment

Student achievement in Iowa is average relative to state spending after controlling for cost of living. 

Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency

Iowa posts below average marks on the credibility of its student proficiency scores. The grade is based on the difference between the percentage of students identified as proficient in reading and math on the 2011 state exams and the percentage identified as proficient on the 2011 NAEP reading and math tests.

Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

Iowa earns a high grade preparing its students for college and careers. Students’ chances for college attendance by age 19 are among the highest in the nation, but only 11 out of 100 pass an AP exam.

21st Century Teacher Force

Iowa does a weak job of creating a strong teacher workforce. It struggles with removing ineffective teachers and retaining effective ones. 

Parental Options

Iowa does a poor job providing parents with strong school choice options. The Hawkeye State has a very weak charter school law and provides parents with few school choice options.

Data Quality

Iowa earns an average grade collecting and reporting high-quality education data. While the state has built a longitudinal data system, it has not ensured that data can be effectively accessed and used by key stakeholders. 


Iowa receives a poor grade employing technology to provide quality instruction and personalized learning. The state provides minimal high-quality digital learning options for students.

International Competitiveness

Iowa earns an above average grade preparing its students to compete in a global economy. Iowa performs above the national average compared with an international standard for reading and math proficiency.

Fiscal Responsibility

Iowa receives very high marks on fiscal responsibility. Eighty percent of the state’s pension is funded, and its most recent pension contribution was 97%.