Early Warning System for Struggling Readers Shows Promise

Mar 9, 2017

Educators in Iowa are saying an early warning system for struggling young readers is showing progress. Nearly 61 percent of the school districts using it are recording improvements in reading among students from kindergarten-through-third grade.

Tynne Sulser is a third-grade teacher in the Centerville Community School District.
Credit Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Every public school district in the state put the system in place three years ago. A policy brief released by the Iowa Department of Education indicates nearly 9,000 students who were reading below grade level in the fall of 2015, met or surpassed benchmarks by spring of 2016. The Waterloo Community School District shows the largest percentage improvement among urban districts. Its superintendent, Jane Lindaman, says the system has given her a common language to speak with students, as she did this week over lunch.

“The 10 little fifth-graders who were sitting in front of me, every one of them was able to articulate their scores," she says. "That has never happened in history, it just hasn’t”

A third-grade teacher in the Centerville Community School District, Tynne Sulser, says the approach has altered her teaching methods.

“Three years ago, I thought I was doing the best I could and it turns out I needed to look at what I was doing in the classroom," she says. "I did need to make changes in my core instruction.”

Fifty-three school districts in the state report double-digit percentage-point improvements.