February 23, 2016
In this Des Moines Register article on his funding plan for summer reading programs to serve 3rd graders in danger of being retained, the Governor is touting the fact that they have $1.9 Million to start pilot programs this year. He then promises they will provide $9M in funding before next March so that all of us can serve our 3rd-grade non-proficient readers in the summer of 2017.
First of all with an estimated 25% of third graders in that category, I doubt that $9 million will come close to the need when the rules are asking for 70 hours of instruction in small groups over the summer.
More troubling though is the concept of waiting until a non-proficient reader is in 3rd grade before providing summer interventions to address this skill deficiency. At NFV we have been offering abbreviated summer sessions for struggling readers for the past three years in grades 1-6. If our goal is for no students to be retained because of poor reading skills, then let's address it early and often.
During the school year we have intervention times called W.I.N. (What I Need) where teacher/interventionists use test results to identify appropriate interventions and help that student. Even though we address reading early with this extra time, some students still need more help. So we offer it to them in the summer, in hopes of getting them closer and closer to the goal before third grade.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to successfully propel all students into proficiency. Partially due to too little time for summer interventions (12 hrs each); partially because some parents do not send their students to summer school, or can't because of transportation issues, and maybe because we are unsuccessful in hiring enough of our best teachers to work in this program over the summer.
I don't know how the Governor thinks we can wave some $9 Million wand in one summer to create proficiency for all readers. I appreciate the efforts, but we need so much more. Summer reading programs should be funded to include all grades below 3rd, and help us to cover transportation costs. It is very disheartening to be faced with this retention law for 3rd graders, knowing retention is not in the best interest of the child. Our challenge to bring all readers to proficiency is always the focus, not just when faced with this negative consequences.