Tag: 071515

Survey Shows Need For Consistency in Summer Reading Programs

Schools will be required to develop summer reading programs for struggling third-graders by 2017
A survey commissioned by the Iowa Reading Research Center and conducted by Iowa’s regent universities shows a lack of consistency statewide in optional summer reading programs for children offered by school districts and community organizations. The findings underscore a need for uniform standards for summer reading programs as all schools work to put them in place for struggling third-grade students as part of a legislative requirement that takes effect in 2017.
About 65 percent of school districts have summer reading programs in place now. The goal of the survey was to understand what those programs look like today. Results show most programs lack specific goals and attendance requirements, and there is wide variability in instruction and in the quality of evidence used to demonstrate effectiveness of the programs.
“Most summer reading programs in Iowa are designed to keep students from backsliding, and they haven’t focused on acceleration,” said Michelle Hosp, director of the Iowa Reading Research Center, a state program created by the Legislature and overseen by the Iowa Department of Education. “Schools will need to rethink that approach as they develop intensive summer reading programs, which will need more focus on reading instruction that leads to student improvement.”
The survey was created as part of the center’s effort to develop state standards for intensive summer reading programs in schools. The survey was distributed to representatives of public and private schools, area education agencies and community organizations, such as public libraries and the United Way. Many community groups oversee or support summer reading programs for Iowa children, either on their own or in partnership with schools.
The survey generated more than 270 responses. Among the findings:
Student Participation: Summer reading programs run by community programs tend to focus on fueling a love for reading, while school programs have a more academic focus, such as preventing loss of reading skills over summer break. Most school and community programs have no attendance requirements.
Reading Instruction and Materials: Most school programs offer between 60-90 minutes of reading instruction each day, while most community programs offer 30 minutes or less of literacy activities. However, community programs tend to run longer (six to eight weeks) than school programs (four weeks). Instructional approaches and materials vary widely.
Effectiveness: Most programs report they have evidence to demonstrate effectiveness. However, the quality, strength and variety of evidence varies widely among schools. About two-thirds of school summer reading programs conduct reading assessments, while 12.5 percent of community programs do. School programs typically use the same assessments used during the regular school year.
Goals and Progress: Most summer reading programs do not set goals or benchmarks related to specific reading skills.
Teacher Qualifications: A majority of school programs are entirely staffed with licensed teachers, while a majority of community programs are not. Most staff are not required to have a reading endorsement, and no other specific qualifications are required.
Research shows reading proficiency by third grade is an important predictor of school success, and early intervention for struggling readers is essential. This is why Iowa lawmakers adopted legislation in 2012 that requires schools to identify and intervene with students in kindergarten through third grade who are struggling to read (Iowa Code Chapter 279.68 and Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 62). By May 1, 2017, every school district in Iowa must provide an intensive summer reading program for students identified as having a substantial deficiency in reading at the end of third grade. Students who are substantially deficient in reading by the end of third grade and who did not complete a summer reading program must be retained in third grade unless they qualify for an exemption, according to the law.
“Reading is an important gateway skill to learning,” Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck said. “The ability to read is important at all levels in school, but early intervention is especially important because third grade is frequently observed as the point at which most children transition from learning to read to reading to learn.”
Read the Iowa Reading Research Center’s survey at www.iowareadingresearch.org.

Voters to Fill Four Seats on Union School Board

Voters will elect four members to serve on the Union Community Schools Board of Directors for four year terms, expiring in 2019.
In Director District I, which includes the city of La Porte City and some of the surrounding area (see map at right), voters will elect one representative. That seat is currently held by Joe Connolly.
In Director District 3, the seat currently held by Dawn Jensen, includes most, but not all of the city of Dysart.
Also carrying a four year term is in Director District 4, currently held by Cathy Niebergall. District 4 territory includes an area in the southwest part of the city of Dysart (see inset) and area surrounding Dysart.
The final open seat is one of the district’s At-Large seats, currently held by Lisa Anton.
The Iowa Association of School Boards urges Iowans who are passionate about education to consider running for election to their local school boards, in order to ensure a bright future for all children and communities across the state.
Nominations for open seats on the state’s 336 local public school boards can be filed between July 6 and 5 PM on July 30, 2015. School board elections will take place September 8.
School board members are elected to serve four-year terms, with elections taking place in odd-numbered years. Those elected receive no pay. Experienced school board members say the rewards of service lie in meeting the needs of children and communities.
Nomination papers for the Union Community School Board are currently available from Kathy Krug, Board Secretary, at the district office located at 200 Adams Street in La Porte City. School board candidates must obtain the signatures of at least one percent of the qualified electors of the district or 50 electors, whichever is less, but at least 10 signatures. A free guide for board candidates, titled “Leaders Who Care,” can be found at www.ia-sb.org.

Practical Money Matters – July 15, 2015

By Nathaniel Sillin
Building a Back-to-School Budget
Back-to-school spending isn’t just about clothes and markers anymore.
In 2014, Forbes reported that Accenture estimated (http://newsroom.accenture.com/images/20020/Graphic.pdf) that nearly half of respondents reported they would spend $500 or more on back-to-school expenses, including not only clothes and desk supplies, but electronics as well.
Yet there’s one more aspect of back-to-school spending that’s growing and can add hundreds – and sometimes thousands – to a family’s overall K-12 education budget. Since the 2008 economic crisis, many public school systems have tried to make up for funding shortfalls by adding first-time or expanded fees for sports, extracurricular activities and specialized academics.
This means that back-to-school budgeting, even for families with kids in public school, now requires a more holistic, year-round approach to all back-to-school expenses.
Given their potential dollar amounts, parents should examine school fees first. Public education has never been completely free of charge beyond local taxes – parents have traditionally paid extra money to support their kids’ participation in sports, music or other extracurricular activities. However, many school systems are adding fees for a broader range of offerings including after-school activities, top-level courses, lab-based instruction and even Advanced Placement (AP) classes. So before you start spending money on clothes and supplies that can be bought off-season, on sale or possibly used, get a handle on how applicable instruction and activity fees might affect your budget. (www.practicalmoneyskills.com/ budgeting/). Parents in financial need may qualify for public aid or grants to cover such fees; if not, choices will need to be made.
Consider turning back-to-school shopping into a money lesson. Most kids like to have certain kinds of clothes, shoes or supplies. Those “wants” can be turned into a discussion about spending priorities, value, choice and comparison shopping. Using the Back to School Budget (practicalmoneyskills.com/calculators/calculate/backToSchoolBudget.php?calcCategory=family) calculator with your kids can help them learn how create a budget before shopping for essentials. As kids get older, the discussion can expand to cover bigger-ticket purchases like smartphones, computers and fees for special courses and activities they want to pursue. Some of these issues might evolve into a discussion about earning money through chores or a part-time job.
Once priorities are decided, every expense should be tracked, including a child’s round trip school transportation, meals, tutoring fees or immunization and healthcare expenses not covered by insurance. And once that budget is set, it means a constant search for smart ways to cut. Some ideas may include:
Car pooling (track your costs to make sure you’re not adding significantly to your overall transportation budget)
Packing lunches at home
Working with school administrators to raise outside donations or grant funding to cover parents’ out-of-pocket costs
Organizing school supplies in one place to avoid purchasing duplicates
Renting equipment, supplies or instruments used until a child’s interests are established
Scouting garage sales, thrift shops and online marketplaces for used, required-edition textbooks, instruments, electronics, sports equipment, clothes and other supplies you’d otherwise buy new; online resources shouldn’t charge shipping or return fees
Reviewing school and classroom supply lists before buying essentials
Bulk- and group-buying supplies and services with other parents to get volume prices
Consolidating back-to-school shopping during tax-free days (if your state offers them)
Swapping used supplies and equipment with other parents
Checking retail memberships for any back-to-school savings they offer
Watching for print and online coupons or special discount offers through your school
Listening to your kids – they might spot money-saving ideas faster than you can
One final secret budget item – rewards. Saving money on back-to-school expenses can help parents meet a number of financial goals, but kids’ academic or activity success deserves recognition. Consider setting aside a little of those savings for a reward they can enjoy.
Bottom line: When setting your back-to-school budget this year, think beyond the supplies. Consider every possible fee and expense associated with your child’s school year and plan accordingly.

ViewPoint: In the Statehouse – A Few Words About Education Funding

By Dawn Pettengill
After the Governor’s vetoes, the first session of the 86th General Assembly is over and it was a grueling year. We worked a month over without pay and most of what we did in that month to find a bipartisan compromise, the Governor vetoed. You can imagine how the Legislature feels about that – believe me, it is not good.
On education, there was a bi-partisan agreement to give a 1.25% raise to the per pupil cost and an additional $55 million to help with problems we were told districts needed help with, like transportation costs, books and curriculum. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the $55 million. We had a balanced budget and it was under his original budget. I have to admit, his veto explanation was not sufficient for me.
Speaking of EDUCATION FUNDING. We need to set the record straight on the misinformation that’s out there. Here it is:
THE STATE DID NOT CUT DOLLARS GOING TO EDUCATION. In the eleven years I’ve been there, the ONLY CUT to education was the 2010 Culver 10% Across the Board cut. In every other year, the schools received more ‘Per Pupil’ than they received the year before. When you ask for a 6% raise and get a 1.25% raise, only in ‘political speak to make the public mad’ is that a cut. And that is exactly what happened this year. The ask was for a 6% raise and we passed 1.25%, which amounts to an extra $80 per pupil.
The House passed the 1.25% on January 27, 2015. It was our first bill of the year. We also passed a 2% increase per pupil for the 2016/17 school year, but the Senate did not take the bill up. I am embarrassed and apologize to the schools for it taking so long to let them know how much they have to spend.
Please note, the state cost ‘per pupil’ is an important term, because that’s how we pay the schools. The tax dollar increases the state sent for every pupil in the last four school years are in the below chart.

Because they have fewer pupils, many schools ARE receiving less money. Let’s take Vinton-Shellsburg for instance:

Vinton enrollment was estimated to be down another 63 students in FY15, bringing the number of students lost to 189 in 5 years. 189 students x $6,366 = $1.2 million less, but look at how their budget has went up in spite of the number of students going down.
Bottom LINE, the state IS sending more money. It may not be what was asked for, but it is more. And we pay PER STUDENT. If you have less students, you receive less. Unfortunately, the School Boards who have this situation will have to make some hard decisions and each school board will have different priorities based on their district’s situation. I’m sure you know at the state level, we send dollars in a lump to the school districts and they determine how to manage it.
I hope this clears up some of the confusion. If you have any questions or concerns, you can give me a call at 319-610-3412. That’s my cell phone. Or you can send a message to dawn.pettengill@legis.iowa.gov. I’m here for you!

Classifieds – July 15, 2015

Thank you to all my family, my church family and all my friends who helped me celebrate my 98th birthday at the senior center in La Porte City. I’m sorry for the lateness of this thank you. I had a wonderful day with family and friends. Arlene Wilson 28-1-pd
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