The Iowa Department of Education released further guidance regarding Iowa's Early Literacy Retention legislation. I would encourage you to read through the guidance here to ensure you have a clear understanding of the requirements, but here are some common questions and answers to help you understand the law.
ABOUT THE LAW
Q:What does the early literacy law do?
A: The law’s focus is on making sure all students are successful readers by the end of third grade. The education system has responded by building an infrastructure to intervene early when students struggle in reading.The law requires the following:
•An early warning system to screen students in kindergarten through third grade to identify students at risk for reading difficulties in those grades.
•Provide research-based intervention and progress monitoring to get struggling readers back on track.
•Communication between schools and parents of children who are struggling.
•Intensive summer reading programs starting in May 2018 for struggling readers at the end of third grade.
•Possible retention at the end of third grade for students who are identified as persistently at-risk in reading based on the school’s screening assessment, who were not proficient on the statewide assessment in reading, who did not complete a summer reading program, and who do not qualify for a good-cause exemption. Retention will not be considered for any third-grade student who is eligible for – and completes – a summer reading program, nor for any student who qualifies for an exemption.
Q:Why is this law in place?
A: The ability to read is a fundamental component of success in school and life. Early intervention is critical when students are struggling. Potential reading problems must be identified as soon as possible so that students can receive the help they need before falling further behind their peers. Reading at all grade levels is important, but third grade is observed as the gateway when students are expected to go beyond “learning to read” and begin “reading to learn.” In Iowa, we have work to do in reading: Nearly one in four third-graders is not proficient in reading, according to state assessment results. We must break this pattern by changing how we find and help students with reading challenges.
Q:When does this law take effect?
A: The summer reading and retention components of this law go into effect May 1, 2018. All other requirements have taken effect.
Q:Does the law apply to children who receive special education or English Language Learner services?
A:Yes. However, there are good-cause exemptions for English Language Learners with fewer than two years of instruction in an English as a Second Language program, as well as for students whose Individualized Education Programs for special education indicate assessments required by the early literacy law are not appropriate.
IOWA'S EARLY WARNING SYSTEM
Q:How exactly does my school identify children with reading problems?
A:Schools screen students in kindergarten through third grade three times a year, in the fall, winter and spring. Students perform either above or below a benchmark. Students who are below the benchmark on one screening assessment are provided with regular monitoring to ensure they stay on track; they also may be provided with additional reading instruction, called intervention. Based on two consecutive screenings, schools then determine for all of the screened students whether they are “adequately progressing,” “at risk,” or “persistently at risk.” Interventions are provided for students identified as “persistently at risk.” https://www.
educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ ed/documents/ EarlyLiteracyGuidance- Revised08-31-2016.pdf
Q:What tests are used to screen my child for reading problems?
A:School districts can choose from a state-approved list of high-quality screeners. Most schools(including Crestwood Elementary) are using the Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST): https://www.
Q:What does “adequately progressing,” “at risk,” and “persistently at risk” specifically mean?A:Definitions are as follows:
•Adequately progressing: Students who perform above the screening benchmark in two consecutive screening periods and are predicted to be on track to make adequate progress in reading.
•At risk: Students who miss the benchmark on one of the two screenings. These students are projected to be at risk for a reading difficulty and should receive supplemental intervention.
•Persistently at risk: Students who miss the benchmark on two consecutive screening periods. These students continue to show risk for reading difficulty and, therefore, should continue to receive supplemental intervention.
Q:What happens if my child is identified as “persistently at risk” in reading?
A:For students identified as being “persistently at risk” in reading in kindergarten through third grade, parents must be notified, research-based interventions must be provided, and the school must monitor the child’s progress. It is critically important that children identified as “persistently at risk” in reading get back on track. Under the early literacy law, schools will provide intensive summer reading programs starting in May 2018 for students who are both “persistently at risk” in reading at the end of third grade based on screening assessments and not proficient on Iowa’s statewide assessment in reading.
Q:What kind of notification do parents receive?
A:Parents are notified when their children have been identified as “persistently at risk” in reading in kindergarten through third grade. Schools also provide progress reports and strategies parents can use at home to help their children.
SUMMER READING PROGRAMS
Q:What are the requirements around summer reading programs?
A:Starting in May 2018, summer reading programs that meet state criteria must be provided by schools for students who are both “persistently at risk” in reading at the end of third grade based on screening assessments and who are not proficient on the statewide assessment in reading. The law requires that children in summer reading programs receive at least 70 hours of instructional time on schedules determined by the schools. A child’s attendance must be at least 85 percent in order to complete the summer reading program.
Q:Is my third-grade child required to attend a summer reading program?
A:Students who are both “persistently at risk” in reading at the end of third grade and not proficient on the statewide assessment in reading may enroll in summer reading programs that meet state criteria starting in May 2018, and their parents/guardians will be notified of their eligibility. Completing summer reading programs is the only way for eligible students to avoid consideration for third-grade retention if they do not qualify for a good-cause exemption from the early literacy law. (See “Third-Grade Retention” section.) Retention will not be considered for any third-grade student who is eligible for – and completes – a summer reading program, nor for any student who qualifies for an exemption.
Q:How long does the summer reading program last?
A:The law requires that children in summer reading programs receive at least 70 hours of instructional time. School districts determine the summer schedule. In order to complete the summer reading program, a child’s attendance must be at least 85 percent.
Q:Is there a test my child needs to pass in order to be promoted to fourth grade?
A:There is no third-grade test or exit exam that students must pass to advance to fourth grade.
Q:Will summer reading programs be required for/available to students in kindergarten through second grade?
A:Many schools intervene earlier than third grade, but the law requires schools to provide intensive summer reading programs only for students at the end of third grade starting in 2018.
Q:What does “intensive” mean with regard to summer reading programs offered by schools?
A:It means that schools will be required to meet certain state criteria for summer reading programs. The criteria can be found on the Iowa Department of Education’s website: https://www.
educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ ed/documents/2015-09-17 Chapter 61 Rules Tab F.pdf
Q:Can parents choose the summer reading programs for their children?
A:Starting in May 2018, intensive summer reading programs that meet state criteria must be provided by schools for eligible children. Parents also have the option of requesting that their school district enter into an agreement with a private provider of intensive summer reading instruction; under this alternative, parents must pay the cost of instruction.
Q:If my child is persistently at risk in reading at the end of third grade but participated in a summer reading program at the end of second grade, will that count toward the summer reading component of this law?
A:No. If the child is “persistently at risk” in reading and not proficient on the state assessment in reading by the end of third grade, and the child does not qualify for an exemption (see Retention section), the child must complete a summer reading program in order to avoid being considered for retention at the end of third grade.
THIRD GRADE RETENTION
Q:Under what circumstances will a child be considered for retention starting in 2018? A:Students who are identified as persistently at risk in reading based on the school’s screening assessment, who were not proficient in reading on the state assessment, who did not complete a summer reading program, and who do not qualify for an exemption will be considered for retention. Retention decisions apply to an eligible third-grader ONLY if a parent/guardian opts the child out of the intensive summer reading program and the student does not qualify for an exemption.
Q:What are the good-cause exemptions?
•A student whose first language is not English has fewer than two years of instruction in an English as a Second Language program.
•A student has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for special education services that indicates participation in assessments required by the early literacy law is not appropriate.
•A student has demonstrated an acceptable level of performance on an alternative assessment based on scientifically based research.
•A student has demonstrated mastery through a portfolio review that meets Department-required criteria.
•A student was previously retained and has received intensive remediation for at least two years.
Q:What criteria must schools use in making third-grade retention decisions?
A:Though reading proficiency on state, school district and classroom assessments represent the largest factor in a retention decision, the following factors also are considered: a child’s progress and development in other subjects (such as mathematics); the student’s developmental and social progress, including overall intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development, using locally available information; consultation with a child’s parents/guardians; and the child’s action plan to remedy the reading difficulty.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Q:How can I help my child at home?
A:Talk to your child’s teacher to see how classroom work can be reinforced at home. The teacher may have resources for you. Other suggested resources:
•Reading Rockets/For Parents: http://www.
•PBS Kids/Parent and Caregiver Resources: http://pbskids.org/
•U.S. Department of Education Reading Resources: http://www2.ed.gov/
•Common Questions about Universal Screening (from the Iowa Reading Research Center blog): http://www.
Parents also can become familiar with the Iowa Core, our state
standards for reading and other subjects, through these parent guides: https://iowacore.gov/content/ iowa-core-parent-guidesgu%C3% ADa-para-padres