A new summer reading pilot program is now underway. This program, being conducted in 44 school districts and reaching around 1,800 students, will serve as an opportunity for schools to identify best practices to most effectively help third-grade students who are not proficient in reading by the end of third-grade.
In 2012, the Iowa Legislature passed the Iowa Early Reading Initiative as part of a broader education reform initiative. The law requires students’ reading proficiency to be tracked from the earliest grades to determine if the student is on track to reach proficiency. Students that are in danger of not reading at a proficient level would receive additional resources to help catch up.
The 2012 law also included a retention piece as a last resort for students that were severely in need of extra help. For those students, school districts around the state will be required to offer summer reading programs when the legislation takes effect in 2018.
The primary concern now is the current number of students that have not been able to reach proficiency levels. For the 2014-2015 state tests, nearly 25% of third-graders were not proficient in reading. There are multiple measures to determine the proficiency level, and the legislature passed a bill this year that is now signed into law to further clarify that retention could not be based on a single test score. If a student meets any of the proficiency measures or completes the summer program, they will go on to fourth-grade.
The Iowa Reading Research Center is conducting the research study to determine best practices. The study will look at different approaches including computer-based and textbook-based instruction, while also looking at hours and the overall duration of the program. The law requires schools to provide at least 70 hours of instruction, and up to five hours of breaks, but it is left up to school districts to decide the length of the day, days per week, and number of weeks the 70 hours is spread across.
Governor Branstad announced the funding for the project earlier this year. A total of $1.9 million was raised through a combination of private contributions and public funds.
I am optimistic that this new program will lead to many more students becoming proficient in reading at an early age, and give them a great foundation for future success.