Early Literacy legislation will impact FDCSD

Elementary-level early learning legislation passed into law in 2012 will affect the Fort Dodge Community School District with the 2014-15 school year.

Stacey Cole, FDCSD director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, explained the law to the FDCSD board at its regular meeting Monday.

“There were no dollars attached to it at that time, so there were no education rules written. For schools, it was kind of dead,” Cole said. “A year ago, they did put $8 million into it, and that $8 million is to be shared by all school districts.”

Iowa school districts must use the funds to improve their elementary-level literacy programs, Cole said.

“It’s a big deal because it does impact every literacy program in Iowa,” she said. “This is a K-3 literacy law.”

The law includes a retention clause, Cole said. If a student is not proficient by third grade, he or she must be retained.

“The goal isn’t that we start retaining third-graders,” she said. “The goal is that we beef up our reading programs. They’re trying to make us do some things differently.”

It also requires that students demonstrating a reading deficiency receive a minimum of 90 minutes daily of “scientific, research-based reading instruction.”

In addition, all schools will be required to have a universal screening process for kindergarten through third grades.

“The purpose of a screener is to get a sense of the health of our school system,” Cole said. “We’ve had a reading screener in Fort Dodge for probably at least 10 years.”

The state will fund a new electronic screener, the Formative Assessment System for Teachers. Teachers will be trained in FAST this month.

“The screener we are currently using has been approved by the state of Iowa for grades one to three,” Cole said. “Our current screener is not approved for kindergarten. It’s the same screener, but it’s not approved for kindergarten.”

The law further requires that any student with “a substantial deficiency in reading” get an intervention, Cole said.

“We already have a very good intervention system in place,” she said. “They just haven’t defined ‘substantial deficiency’ for us yet. So that might change for us, as well.”

Already, the FDCSD is working toward meeting these new early literacy requirements, Cole said.

“Our literacy group met two days in June, and we began to establish what we’re calling a tight-loose document,” she said. “It’s things we’re going to be very tight on, things that we expect in all reading classrooms.”

Cole offered some examples of changes that could take place.

“If your class is less than 80 percent proficient on fluency on the screener, then we’re going to do a full-class intervention on fluency to make sure kids are getting what they need to be successful,” she said.

She added, “This will be a big focus for us this year, if not two or three years.”

The FDCSD board also reviewed its mission, vision and goals statement for the 2014-15 year, and recognized Brandon Hansel, FDCSD director of financial services, for receiving an Award of Financial Reporting Achievement from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada.