Governor Terry Branstad is calling on legislators to boost state spending for the Iowa Reading Research Center. A budget plan that’s ready for debate in the Iowa Senate would give the center $2 million in state taxpayer support for the next year, but Branstad wants almost double that much.
“That will cover the cost of providing Iowa’s ‘Early Warning System’ and giving Iowa’s children the help they deserve in other ways,” Branstad says.
That “Early Warning System” — developed by the Iowa Reading Research Center — comes in the form of twice yearly tests that show if children are reading well enough. The center is to set up intensive summer literacy programs for students who aren’t reading at grade level. Iowa Reading Research Center director Michelle Hosp says recent tests indicate 25 percent of third graders aren’t reading at a third grade level.
“Every child in the state of Iowa deserves those opportunities that come with being proficient in reading,” Hosp says. “We know that if you are not proficient in reading, you will not have a good opportunity to be successful in school. You will not have opportunities in life to go on and further your career and, ultimately, other people will end up making decisions on your behalf because you will not be equipped with those essential skills in order to be able to make those decisions for yourself.”
Jason Ellingson is the superintendent of the Collins-Maxwell School District, one of the first districts in the state to start using the “early warning system” tests to judge reading proficiency in the early grades.
“The Iowa Reading Research Center is a great hub of information for educators, parents and other organizations to support literacy across the state,” Ellingson says.
Starting in 2017, third graders in Iowa will not be able to advance to fourth grade if they are not reading at a third grade level. That most recent tests found more than 8000 Iowa third graders were not reading at the third grade level.