An important update on literacy
Our focus at the Iowa Department of Education is on developing and implementing successful, sustainable statewide initiatives that prepare students for success in school and beyond. We do this in partnership with the stakeholders we serve.
As the gateway skill to college and career readiness, reading is the most important tool we can give our students. Iowa legislators recognized this in 2012 by adopting a comprehensive early literacy initiative that focuses on ensuring students can read successfully by the end of third grade. It’s truly inspiring to see that Iowa educators have embraced the early intervention component of the law, which focuses on identifying and addressing potential reading difficulties early on. As of last spring, Iowa schools had:
- Screened more than 97 percent of all students in kindergarten through third grade to identify those who may be at risk for reading difficulties.
- Frequently monitored the reading progress and growth of 80 percent of K-3 students in reading.
- Raised the percentage of K-3 students meeting benchmark in reading from 64 percent to 68 percent statewide.
Early intervention will continue to be the Department’s emphasis because the best way to solve reading problems is to prevent them.
As you know, the summer reading and third-grade retention components of the law are scheduled to take effect in May 2018. On November 30, we released guidance to districts for implementation of the third-grade retention requirement of the law. This guidance details for schools how to identify third-grade students for possible retention and the considerations to factor into the decision.
In writing this guidance, we wanted to emphasize that what matters most is whether students can read successfully at the end of third grade, but that determination will not be made using a single measure, nor in the absence of other factors.
We also approached this guidance as we do other state initiatives, by honoring local decision-making within statewide parameters. This approach is in line with Iowa Code 279.68. The final decision in third-grade retention belongs with schools – in consultation with parents – because you know your students best.
I’m hopeful this guidance helps you provide clarity to parents on what this process will look like and how important it is for parents to be engaged with teachers and schools to ensure reading challenges are identified and addressed early, with the right supports in place, so that students progress in reading.
Please see our website for more information on the early literacy law.
We will continue to support schools in the implementation of the early literacy law. I look forward to celebrating our growth in reading over time.
Thanks for all you do for Iowa’s learners.
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