Early Reading Levels on the Rise in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Education released a policy paper Thursday which shows the  statewide effort by Iowa schools to catch and correct reading problems in students early on is showing progress. The paper says nearly nine-thousand  students in kindergarten through third grade who had fallen short of benchmarks in reading in the fall of 2015 met or surpassed benchmarks by the spring of 2016, an increase of 4.2 percentage points. The Ed Department’s Amy Williamson oversees the Bureau of School Improvement. She says the early warning system implemented in 2014 is a key part of helping kids improve their reading.

Williamson says it gives a much better picture of what’s happening with students than the annual assessments.

But she says they have to see fine increments on a weekly basis to change the reading instruction. The 398 public and non-public schools using the early warning system saw a nearly 61 percent increase in the percentage of students in kindergarten through third grade that were at or above the state benchmark for reading.  Waterloo saw the biggest increase among urban districts at 14-point-six percent from the fall of 2015 to the spring of 2016. Jane Lindaman, the district’s superintendent, says it has been a group effort.

She says getting kids to become better readers goes beyond trying to meet some state requirement.

Lindaman says parents are also coming along.

Centerville third-grade teacher, Tynne Sulser, says the last three years of implementing the program have been a learning experience for her as a teacher.

She says she’s seen improvement even in the kids who struggle the most.

Sulser says the kids gain confidence in the progress they have made and it will continue.
Increases in the highest-growth school districts ranged from 19 to 32 percentage points. Iowa’s early literacy law passed by the Legislature in 2012, focuses on making sure all students are proficient readers by the end of third grade.

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