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Grade Level Reading Retention

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”— Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Reading resources fall short
One in four (25%) Iowa third-graders failed grade-level reading tests according to Department of Education data. Adequate funding is the answer to keeping kids on track for reading and math literacy. Branstad’s education reform will require 3rd graders, who are not reading at grade level, to either repeat 3rd grade or take summer school. Estimated cost of providing summer school to those third graders who are not reading at grade-level is $10 million.

Over the past five years, the legislature and the Governor have only raised supplemental aid to schools by 2% even though teachers, administrators, school boards and parents have been insisting there is a need for more. With nearly 25% of 3rd graders reading below grade level, it is clear, there is a need for more state aid to reduce class sizes and provide quality, early literacy instruction.

This week, the Governor announced $1.9 million in private funding for a summer reading initiative, which falls short of the $10 million needed. The Governor’s FY17 budget does not include an appropriation for the implementation of the summer reading initiative and his budget only includes 2.45% supplemental aid.

Four years ago, the Legislature required intensive reading support for children grades K-3. Starting in May 2017, a student in third grade will not be able to move on to fourth grade if they are below the third grade reading level.

Eighty-eight percent of high school drop outs were not reading at grade level in 3rd grade. But the research is complex:

“There isn’t this magic age that, if you don’t catch a kid by that age, you lose them forever,” said Timothy Shanahan, a distinguished professor emeritus specializing in literacy research at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a lead writer of the common-core language arts standards. “It’s harder if a kid is six years behind to catch him up than if he’s two years behind, but it’s not because he’s stupider or loses the capacity to learn; it’s just a greater distance.”

And the opposite also holds true: “Just because you catch a 7-year-old up and get him to his class average, that’s terrific, but that doesn’t guarantee his future, either,” Mr. Shanahan said. “What you tend to see is [retained students] fall back over time.” (Should 3rd Grade Be the Pivot Point for Early Reading?)

School leaders are concerned about the new reading requirement if the state doesn’t provide any additional dollars to enact the program. After years of stagnant funding that is not keeping with rising costs, schools will again be forced to find other resources to cover the new requirement.

The requirement for summer reading or retention, however, just addresses kids in the summer after third grade.  Legislators are currently in the process of developing these budgets for next year.

Adequate funding is the answer to keeping kids on track for reading and math literacy.

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