Study: Iowa lags behind other states in efforts to promote reading

DES MOINES — State policies in Iowa should do more to promote reading, according to a new report comparing reading laws around the country. The National Council for Teacher Quality found Iowa’s standards in that area are weaker than most other states.

Council executive director Heather Peske says it’s appropriate that Iowa lawmakers are now proposing changes. She says one thing Iowa should do is list phonics and other core components of the science of reading as part of education standards. Peske also says the state should publish a list of the best reading curriculum. “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 even have much of an expertise in this.”

Peske says another place where Iowa could improve is in the licensing standards for elementary teachers. She says teaching candidates should have to pass a stronger exam to test their knowledge of how to put research on reading into practice. “The stakes are very high for children,” she 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.”

Governor Kim Reynolds has said she would like to make a test called Foundations of Reading a requirement for Iowa teacher preparation programs. Peske says it’s one of the tests strongly aligned with the science of reading. A bill in the Iowa Senate would list the components of the science of reading in education standards for kindergarten through third grade.