Dems: Early reading efforts must be funded

January 31, 2016

Iowa schools are committed to identifying reading problems in students early so that they can help students get on track. Being a good reader by the end of third grade is an important predictor of school success, and early intervention is the key to avoiding difficulty with reading later on.


This week, the Senate Education Committee heard what’s being done to help students achieve their reading goals through an unprecedented level of collaboration between the Iowa Reading Research Center, the Iowa Department of Education, area education agencies, school districts, parents and communities. These resources, in addition to new funding, are necessary for a quality summer literacy program that provides extra help for kids struggling to read.


If a student who is not proficient in reading agrees to attend a high-quality summer reading program, they can avoid being held back in third grade starting next year. Being held back should be a last-resort option. Offering summer school sends a strong message that we won’t give up on struggling readers. Assessments show that between 22 percent and 30 percent of Iowa third-graders last school year failed local reading tests. If we don’t help these students achieve their full potential, we’ll get the same results next year. That means about 8,000 third graders could be held back if not given the chance to take an intensive summer literacy program.


That’s why it’s so troubling that the Governor’s budget did not include one new dime for these efforts, even though the Iowa Department of Education requested $9 million specifically for summer school, and another $5.5 million to step up literacy efforts throughout the state.


If we want all kids to read and succeed, we must support local students, schools and summer reading programs as an alternative to holding students back.

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