Parents, Teachers Concerned Over State’s New Reading Requirements

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Almost a quarter of Iowa third graders aren't reading at grade level, and the government will require individual testing to determine if a child should advance to the fourth grade starting in 2017.

“One test that’s being used is for comprehension to see how well a child understands what they’re reading. But another test a district could choose is how fast they can read,” said Tammy Wawro, President of the Iowa State Education Association.

Some teachers have raised concerns about the latter.

“I think that’s a very tough call to make on those two tests. Right now, a teacher knows whether a child is reading at grade level or not, and the parent in many cases knows as well. But each child blossoms differently and develops in different ways,” Wawro said.

That's true for Fred McIntire who has three boys: One in third grade, who is struggling with reading, and twins who are on track.

“I have one who can comprehend way better than the other one, but the other one wants to get it done faster so he can get a better score. So he’ll read faster, but is he really comprehending? No,” McIntire said.

The test based on speed is what has teachers concerned.

“So you have children who stop reading with inflection, who have to stop utilizing punctuation marks so that they can read faster and therefore pass the fluency test,” Wawro said.

If students lack proficiency two tests in a row, they must complete an intensive 72-hour summer program, which doesn't have an exit exam.

“The exit exam is attendance, not proficiency,” said Wawro.

The summer school requirement was supposed to start this year, but it was delayed because there wasn't any funding.

“Taking care of our youngest learners is very important, but you have to put your money where your mouth is,” Wawro said.

And parents feel that while reading is critical, it comes at a cost.

“You miss out on swimming, you miss out on playing baseball you miss out on, honestly, just being a kid," said McIntire.

A new part of the program would allow a second test to be administrated to serve as a type of second opinion, but teachers are unsure what that test will look like.

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