National group weighs in on Iowa reading standards

DES MOINES — A bill in the Iowa Senate would ban a type of reading instruction called “three cueing” and require that all Iowa schools use what’s called the science of reading.

Heather Peske, executive director of the National Council for Teacher Quality, says it’s the appropriate move. She suggests state standards should specifically list phonics  and other components of the science of reading — and provide Iowa schools with a list of the best reading courses available. “It kind of serves almost as though it’s like a consumer protection device,” Peske says. “Many districts don’t have the capacity to review curriculum materials themselves. Some of them might not have much of an expertise in this.”

Peske says Iowa policymakers should consider changing licensing standards for elementary teachers, too, so they’d have to pass an exam that tests their knowledge of research about how kids learn how to read. “The stakes are very high for children,” Peske says, “and we need to make sure that teachers have the knowledge and skills before they get into classrooms to be able to effectively teach them to read.”

Govenror Reynolds wants to make a test called the “Foundations of Reading” a requirement in teacher preparation programs in Iowa.

The three-cueing system of reading instruction has been banned in a dozen states — including Minnesota and Wisconsin — and Iowa is among several considering a ban this year. Three-cueing encourages young students to draw clues from pictures on the page or other words in a sentence to figure out what a word might be before looking at the letters in the word and what sounds those letter combinations make.