Iowa schools are making a difference in early literacy
Statewide efforts focused on making sure all Iowa students are proficient readers by the end of third grade are demonstrating a positive impact in the growth of literacy skills. A report released by the Iowa Department of Education highlights key findings since the early literacy law was adopted by the Iowa Legislature in 2012.
Iowa schools, Area Education Agencies, and the Iowa Department of Education responded to the early literacy law with a focus on prevention of reading difficulties and early intervention for students. The law reinforced the importance that teachers need data and resources in order to provide effective literacy instruction, as well as the need to provide early intervention for students who have fallen behind in reading skills.
A critical component of this statewide effort is an early warning system for literacy. This system is designed to help educators identify and intervene with students in kindergarten through third grade (K-3) who are at risk for reading difficulties. The early warning system, which was fully implemented in Iowa schools in 2014, includes screening the reading skills of all K-3 students. This is done three times a year. Based on this information, teachers are able to provide targeted reading instruction to students who need it and monitor the progress of all students.
The work to put in place a statewide early warning system has begun to pay off. Student results on the screening assessments statewide have improved statewide.
On the screening assessments from fall 2015 through spring 2016:
• Of 398 public school districts and nonpublic schools using the early warning system, 60.8 percent saw an increase in the percentage of K-3 students at or above benchmark;
• The top 10 school districts and nonpublic schools demonstrating increases in the percentage of K-3 students at or above benchmark ranged from 19.5 percent to 32.2 percent.
• 53 school districts showed double-digit increases.
• The number of students who met or exceeded benchmarks grew 4.2 percentage points from 63.4 percent to 67.6 percent. That equates to almost 9,000 students statewide.
Research shows that students who are proficient readers by the end of third grade are more likely to succeed in school, graduate, go on to college, and earn a living wage. Students who aren’t proficient readers are more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to earn a living wage, and less likely to obtain a postsecondary education.
Central Rivers AEA continues to partner with our area school districts to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education—beginning with their very first academic years.
Dr. Julie Davies is the executive director of educational services with Central Rivers Area Education Agency, based in Cedar Falls. She can be reached at (319) 273-8260.