Frequently Asked Questions
In response to the questions most frequently asked about the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act (Section 79-2601-79-2607), the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) has provided the information below.
What are the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act Requirements During COVID-19?
The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act requires Nebraska schools to administer three universal screening assessments to all K-3 students throughout the academic year. Due to the unprecedented circumstances surrounding COVID-19, and in response to statewide school closures, Governor Pete Ricketts signed Executive Order 20.20 on April 20th, 2020 which waived the Spring 2020 administration of the K-3 assessment required by the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act.
As districts make decisions for the 2020-21 school year, additional guidance may be necessary in order to address ever changing circumstances brought about by COVID-19. The NDE is closely monitoring the needs of our schools, students, and communities to provide timely and appropriate communications regarding assessments.
Districts or schools may find themselves in a situation where they need to consider administering an assessment remotely. Some of the approved assessments have the capability of being administered remotely. It is highly suggested that, if a district or school chooses to administer an assessment remotely, they follow the guidance provided by the vendor. Vendor guidance can be found on the Approved Assessment page.
Launch Nebraska also provides additional assessment considerations that are intended to support you in making informed, well-reasoned decisions around remote assessment.
What is an approved reading assessment?
An assessment of student reading is administered three times during the school year to all students in grades kindergarten through grade three to 1) screen students within the first 30 days of school to identify students who may have a reading deficiency, 2) measure progress toward grade level reading in skills including but not limited to: alphabetical and phonological awareness, sound-symbol correspondence, decoding, fluency and comprehension and 3) inform instruction targeted to student needs. Such assessments will be approved by qualified NDE personnel or its designees, be reliable and valid, and align with appropriate academic content standards for reading adopted by the State Board of Education pursuant to section 79-760.01. Assessments should allow teachers to access results in a reasonable period, be commercially available, and comply with requirements established by NDE.
The threshold, or performance, levels used to determine if a student is experiencing a difficulty with reading, were established by the vendors of individual assessments. For a full listing of approved assessments with corresponding threshold levels, and to find contact information for questions related to threshold levels, please visit https://www.education.ne.gov/nebraskareads/approved-assessments/
Some schools may choose to use different screeners from the approved list, for example, they may assess early literacy skills with one assessment in kindergarten and 1st grade, and another in 2nd and 3rd. While it may be more difficult to track progress over time, some research supports the practice. The screener should be the primary tool to identify a student as having a reading deficiency. Diagnostic and other types of formative assessment do not require department approval. It is recommended that specific information gleaned from any assessments, including the universal screener, be included in the Individualized Reading Plan (IRP) so that multiple data sources inform the process of developing a supplemental reading intervention plan.
Who is exempt from taking the approved reading assessment?
To recognize the needs of some students, some are exempt from taking the approved reading assessments. These include:
- any student with limited English proficiency who has received less than two years of English instruction
- any student receiving special education services for whom such assessment would conflict with their individualized education plan
- any student receiving services under a plan pursuant to the requirements of section 504 of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act for whom such assessment would conflict with such section 504 or Title II Plan
What is included in a supplemental reading intervention to support a student with an Individualized Reading Improvement Plan (IRIP)?
Any student identified with a reading deficiency must be provided a supplemental reading intervention program. A supplemental reading intervention program is an intensive and research-based program of instructional strategies designed to support students in developing critical skills associated with reading. Effective programs are characterized by skillful instruction, the use of focused strategies informed by data and tailored to specific needs of students, small-group and/or individualized instruction, and the use of ongoing formative assessment, guided practice, and immediate feedback.
Many core programs offer interventions that are designed to target specific skill deficits. Before selecting any intervention, however, educators should consider a number of factors:
- Does the intervention have a strong evidence base for its effectiveness?
- To what extent can the intervention be implemented with fidelity?
- Does the intervention significantly increase the intensity of instruction?
- Are there opportunities for small-group and/or individualized instruction?
- Does the intervention provide the opportunity for explicit, direct instruction?
- How often does the intervention provide opportunities for the student to practice new skills?
- Does the duration of the intervention rely on the use of progress monitoring?
Using screening and diagnostic tools as a guide, interventions should be matched according to identified student needs. In some cases, students may need a comprehensive program that addresses all five areas of early literacy: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies. It is recommended schools have, at their disposal, interventions or programs beyond the core curriculum in order to meet the full range of student skill deficits. The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act does not specify the frequency or duration (how many days per week and for how long) each student is required to receive intervention.
For more information about IRIPs, please visit https://www.education.ne.gov/nebraskareads/irip-guidance-document/.
What is the role of parents/families in the Individualized Reading Improvement Plan (IRIP) process?
The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act requires that parents or guardians be notified by the school of a reading deficiency, in writing or in electronic form, no later than 15 days after the identification “and that an individual reading improvement plan will be established and shared with the parents or guardians.”
The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act states: The reading improvement plan may be created by the teacher, the principal, other pertinent school personnel, and the parents or guardians of the student and shall describe the reading intervention services the student will receive… While the law does not explicitly require parental involvement, efforts should be made to collaborate with parents or guardians in creating a plan. The reading improvement plan should be shared with the parents or guardians. It is beneficial to keep parents or guardians informed of on-going progress.