Iowa House backs bill aimed at literacy among Iowa K-6 students

DES MOINES — Some elements of Governor Kim Reynolds’ plan to improve Iowa students’ reading scores have won approval in the Iowa House.

Under the bill, schools must notify parents if their child isn’t reading at grade level in kindergarten through sixth grade and teachers would have to chart a plan for each of those students falling behind in reading.

Representative Thomas Moore, a Republican from Griswold, said most teachers are doing that already. “I don’t want to say, ‘all teachers,’ because obviously we wouldn’t be in the middle of the pack nationally, reading wise, if all of our teachers were doing some of these things,” said Moore , who is a retired teacher.

The bill also says college students in teacher prep programs would have to take an exam to test their knowledge of research-based reading instruction, but a passing grade wouldn’t be required for graduation. The governor recommended that current teachers take the test, too, but that’s not in the House bill.

“I also want to thank the governor’s office for their willingness to accept my toning down what their original bill was and to come up with what I feel was a good compromise,” Moore said.

The bill passed on a 92-to-3 vote. Representative Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City who’s retired teacher, supported it, but she said the bill could have gone farther in addressing the needs of students with dyslexia.

“Dyslexia is estimated to affect 20% of our kids in school and the intervention to help those kids with dyslexia is very specific,” Steckman said. “…It’s very important that we get our universities that are teaching our teachers to understand the importance of knowing how to teach a child with dyslexia.”

The chairman of the Senate Education Committee said last week that he hopes to pass legislation this year aimed at improving the reading skills of Iowa students. It’s not yet clear what the final wording might be in a bill that would get approval from the Senate, House and the governor.