Iowa students need help with reading

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 13 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:34 am in
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By Michelle Hosp

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Nearly one in four of Iowa’s public third-grade students is not proficient in reading. National Assessment of Education Progress reading results for Iowa students have been virtually stagnant since 1992 among fourth- and eighth-grade students tested.

Reading is a gateway skill to learning, and we are committed as a state to preparing all students for success in college and career training.

A survey commissioned by the Iowa Reading Research Center and conducted by Iowa’s regent universities shows inconsistencies in literacy instructional practices in Iowa schools, which may contribute to stagnant reading trends among Iowa students for the past several years. The survey revealed inconsistencies among schools in these areas:

l Classroom literacy instruction: There is a wide array of teaching approaches, uneven interventions for students who are struggling and disparate time allotments for instruction.

l Professional development: A majority of educators reported professional development participation related to the Iowa Core English Language Arts, but with a varying range of time allotted for implementation and a low percentage of professional development focus in reading interventions for targeted students.

l Resources: The survey results indicate an uneven perception of the availability of resources, including technology resources and materials covering the Iowa Core standards, but results also showed some agreement among administrators and teachers that time available to dedicate toward Iowa Core standards is insufficient.

l Summer reading programs: Just more than half of Iowa’s schools responding to the survey indicate they offer a summer reading program. The duration and the daily time allotment for literacy instruction vary widely.

The Legislature has asked the center to identify teaching strategies and interventions; student assessments; professional development for educators; a statewide student data reporting system; and to develop criteria and guidelines for a summer literacy program with a proficiency goal for all students.

The center is in a unique position to advocate and coordinate best practices because it is not committed to any one entity. Our goal is to be the cohesive, comprehensive resource for vetted, evidence-based practices so teachers and parents do not have to spend their time trying to identify best practices.

Our website, www.iowareadingresearch.org, is a growing content source for teachers, parents and stakeholders interested in advancing students’ literacy and reading proficiency.

Michelle Hosp, the director of the Iowa Reading Research Center, may be reached at MHosp@IowaReadingResearch.org.

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