Dear Parents and Families of K-2 Students:
I’m writing with an important update on reading. Making sure that children in kindergarten through third grade are on track with reading skills is not only a large focus in our school, it is required by state law.
While Iowa’s early literacy law emphasizes identifying and addressing reading difficulties early on, it also requires schools to make decisions, beginning in the 2017-18 school year, about summer reading programs and possible retention for some third-grade students who are not reading on grade level by the end of the school year.
As you may know, schools across the state must begin providing an intensive summer reading program in May 2018 for third-grade students who struggle with reading as determined by screening assessments throughout the school year as well as the state assessment. As of 2018, a third-grader who has been referred to a summer reading program must complete the program to avoid consideration for retention unless the student qualifies for an exemption. Students need only complete the program to move on to fourth grade, not pass a test.
Once again, I want to emphasize: 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. Our school is focused on prevention, not retention. While our school will be required to follow recently issued state guidelines for deciding whether to retain a student in third grade, the final decision rests with schools – in consultation with parents – because we know our students best. Reading performance will be the main consideration in retention decisions, although other factors will be considered as well.
HMS has taken a proactive approach in preparing our students to be successful readers. We have offered a two-week summer school program for several years and added a six-week program three years ago. We are using Reading Recovery, Title 1 Reading, CIM, Benchmark Assessments and Guided Reading strategies to help our children become successful readers. Additionally, as part of the state’s early literacy law, our school has been screening K-3 students for reading difficulties (FAST), making adjustments in instruction based on results, and then monitoring the progress of our students. This “early warning” approach gives us valuable information so we can remedy reading difficulties before they progress. This is important because making sure students have the skills they need to succeed starts with the ability to read.
We also will continue our efforts to reach out to parents when a child is struggling with reading. Please continue to engage with your child’s teacher regularly and ask how you can help at home.
An Early Literacy link on the district web page has been created which contains tips for parents to help develop their child’s literacy, a FAQ about the early literacy law, and an early literacy fact sheet. You will also find information, including the state guidelines on retention decisions, on the Iowa Department of Education’s website: www.educateiowa.gov/pk-12/content-areas/literacy/early-literacy-law
As always, I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.