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East Union staff works to improve student literacy

Published: Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 10:34 a.m. CDT

AFTON — East Union is part of a new statewide effort designed to help all students read proficiently by the end of third grade. Team members representing the school are Joan Gordon, Emily Wuebker, Susan Stover, Sherry Reed and Dr. Pam Vogel, district superintendent.

The East Union team joined with more than 600 educators from across Iowa to learn how Iowa’s education system is working together to put in place a practice known as Response to Intervention (RtI). This is a statewide effort through Collaborating for Iowa’s Kids, a partnership among Iowa’s AEAs, school districts and Iowa Department of Education.

RtI is a proven practice that helps schools identify students who are struggling readers and then offers interventions to help them improve. Teachers may adapt how they are teaching to fit each student’s individual needs and then can monitor the student’s progress to identify what is working. About 10 percent of the state’s schools will roll out RtI this fall.

Roughly one-in-four fourth-graders scored below proficient on the state reading test in 2012. Students who don’t read proficiently in third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school, according to a 2011 report by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“We fully recognize that we must ensure every student is reading proficiently in the early grades,” said Vogel. “We really need to strive to help every child to read above what we expect at their grade level, when possible. Without good reading skills that are developed when they are young, students will likely struggle academically for all their years in school and will be challenged in life, as they seek a job or post-secondary education. Being a good reader (is) a key to success, and it is our responsibility to see that we help children to achieve this.”

Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck welcomed participants to the workshop.

“What would it mean for Iowa if every child finishing third grade could read at or above the third-grade level?” Buck asked. “We’re at a pivotal time. We agree we must dramatically improve. I say that Iowa’s education is good as it ever has been – it’s just that other states have passed us on some academic measures.”

Through the three-day workshop, participants learned three key elements to RtI.

1. Assessment we will use to ensure that students are ready to learn when they start kindergarten;

2. Assessments in kindergarten through sixth grade that will continue to monitor each student’s progress;

3. Making decisions based on data.

A partnership with staff from Green Hills AEA will continue to provide training and coaching as this process is implemented.

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