DES MOINES — Two Quad-City area elementary schools were recognized Thursday for their success in lessening the disparity in test scores among different groups of students.

Madison Elementary School in Davenport and Madison Elementary in Muscatine were among five schools in the state presented with a “Breaking Barriers” award during the closing reception of the Iowa Association of School Boards conference in Des Moines.

The achievement gap is the difference in standardized test scores that exists between different socio-economic and racial groups of students. For example, Asian students generally perform better than black students, and students who are still learning English generally fare worse than students for whom English is their first language.

“Really, our district as a whole is looking to close the achievement gap — and we’ve shown progress as a whole to close the achievement gap for all of our subgroups,” said Muscatine School District Superintendent Bill Decker. “We have great people, and people who care about all our students.”

Muscatine’s Madison Elementary School was recognized for closing the gap among Latino students. Tests show 83 percent being proficient in reading and math, even though 57 percent of them qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

Davenport’s Madison Elementary School was recognized for closing the gap with African-American students, showing 70 percent being proficient in reading and math. Nine years ago, only 20 percent of the school’s African-American students posted proficient scores.

Madison Principal Sarah Gott said a lot of the gains have to do with the Davenport school’s focus on its reading program.

“For 130 minutes a day, the kids are in ability-based groups where they sit in smaller groups with the teacher with all kids at the same level as them, and they get very specific instruction,” Gott said. “They start with the most basic phonics, all the way up to reading for enjoyment.”

The other three school districts given Breaking Barrier awards on Thursday were:

n Bloomer Elementary School, Council Bluffs Community School District, for its work with English language learners.

n Graettinger-Terril High School, Graettinger-Terril Community School District, for its work with students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

n Willowbrook Elementary School, Southeast Polk Community School District, for its work with students on an Individualized Education Program.

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Representatives of Muscatine’s Madison Elementary who were in Des Moines on Thursday are, from left, Elena Macias, Donna Godden-Alloway, Marsha McGill, Principal Debi Welk, Rachelle Schneider and Nancy Velasquez.


Davenport’s Madison Elementary was represented Thursday in Des Moines by, from left in back, Beth Bearbower-Brizzolara, Bob Schneden and Julie Wilkins, and in front, Principal Sara Gott, Sue Berger, Kim Rollinger, Mary Beth Dircks and Fran Vaughan.