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. For further questions, please contact marissa.payzant@nebraska.gov.  For the Spanish Version, please click here.

This guidance document is advisory in nature but is binding on an agency until amended by such agency. A guidance document does not include internal procedural documents that only affect the internal operations of the agency and does not impose additional requirements or penalties on regulated parties or include confidential information or rules and regulations made in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. If you believe that this guidance document imposes additional requirements or penalties on regulated parties, you may request a review of the document. For comments regarding this document contact nde.guidance@nebraska.gov.

When does the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act go into effect?

The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act (Section 79-2601-79-2607) is effective beginning
with the 2019-2020 school year.

Why Grade 3?

As students transition from early to upper elementary grades, reading instruction also shifts.
Once students enter fourth grade, they are increasingly tasked to learn from their reading
rather than learn how to read. There is a higher expectation for students to be able to read
independently and understand what they are reading. Reading at or above grade level by the
end of third grade is a significant predictor of future success. Children who are not reading
proficiently by the end of third grade will continue to struggle academically as they are called
upon to engage with increasingly complex texts across content areas.1

 

1Annie E. Casey Foundation, Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty
Influence High School Graduation, 2011

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 and 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.

How will parents be notified if a student is determined to have a reading difficulty?

Parents or guardians of students who are identified with a reading difficulty are notified in
writing or in electronic form no later than 15 days after the identification. Notification will
come from the student’s school.

What is a supplemental reading intervention program?

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.

Where can I find more information about summer reading programs?

Many Nebraska school districts have in place robust and comprehensive summer learning
opportunities for students and should continue seeking ways to improve and enhance the
reading instruction that is offered. Some districts may take steps toward creating learning
opportunities that meet the academic needs of students. Smaller districts may rely upon
other community programs and resources that will enrich early literacy skills. Schools and
districts are encouraged to foster partnerships with local libraries and other outreach groups
to creatively address the early literacy needs of identified students. The National Summer
Learning Association provides a starting point for information, support, and resources
related to the implementation of quality summer learning for all students:
https://www.summerlearning.org/about-nsla/.

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 the difference between a student who has a reading difficulty and a special education student?

Some students struggle with reading but do not have a diagnosed disability. These students
may lag behind their peers and require more time with more specialized reading instruction
and intervention to overcome their challenges with emergent literacy skills. Students
identified with a reading difficulty depend on caring and insightful schools, teachers, and
parents to provide them the reading help they need to become successful readers.

Some students are formally diagnosed with a learning disability. These students can receive
special education under a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA). To outline the educational goals and services that the student needs to be
successful, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed. For students with a
learning disability who struggle with reading, reading-related support and services can be
included in the student’s IEP.

When a student has a reading deficiency– whether he or she has been formally identified as
having a disability or not – the key is to:

  • correctly determine the nature and source of a student’s difficulty,
  • provide targeted instruction to remediate difficulties and increase skill level,
  • and accommodate a student’s challenges and build upon his or her strengths.

How will student progress be monitored?

An approved reading assessment will assess all students, kindergarten through grade 3
three times during the school year to 1) screen students within the first 30 days of school to
identify students that may have a reading deficiency, 2) measure progress towards grade
level reading and 3) to inform instruction targeted to students’ needs. Supplemental reading
intervention programs may include ongoing diagnostic assessments and do not require NDE
approval.

How do the requirements for students identified as having characteristics of dyslexia (LB 1052) relate to effective reading instruction and intervention?

LB 1052, now Nebraska Revised Statute 79-11,156, outlines requirements for the identification
and support for students who exhibit characteristics of dyslexia, complements the Nebraska
Reading Improvement Act. Both laws underscore the role of effective reading instruction and
intervention for students who struggle with reading proficiency. The NDE has developed a
technical assistance guide for dyslexia.

The purpose of the guide for dyslexia is to provide information, resources, guidance and
support to schools, families and caregivers in understanding the specific learning disability
of dyslexia. This technical assistance document is a starting point and includes additional
resources for educators to access when they suspect a student may have dyslexia. In
addition, 79-11,158 requires teacher education programs to include instruction in dyslexia.

How can parents be supportive at home?

Teachers and parents should work together to ensure that students are strengthening their
reading skills and are meeting milestones each year, so they are ready to advance to the next
grade. There are multiple ways to support your child’s reading outside of the classroom.

  1. Read something every day. Reading just 20 minutes each day can help your child’s
    reading skills.
  2. Choose books of interest to your child to read.
  3. Ask your child questions about what they read. Talking about the words in the book
    helps them understand what they are reading.
  4. Make sure books are accessible. Your child will be more likely to pick up a book and read
    if they are out in the open and easy to find.
  5. Sing rhyming songs, read rhyming books, and say tongue twisters with your child. This
    helps them learn new sounds in words.
  6. Talk to your child. Use trips to the grocery store, dinnertime chats, and driving in the car
    as an opportunity to introduce new words and practice their speaking skills.
  7. Talk about letters and sounds. Help your child learn the names of the letters and the
    sounds the letters make.
  8. Have your child write. Writing grocery lists, notes, or letters helps children connect
    spoken words to written words.
  9. Take advantage of community resources. Ask your child’s teacher or school librarian for
    help picking out books. Visit your local library for events and programs like reading clubs.
  10. Reading doesn’t end when the school year ends. Help prevent the “summer slide” by
    reading over the summer months to better prepare your child for the next school year.
    The Nebraska Department of Education offers a Summer Reading Challenge program
    free to all Nebraska students https://www.education.ne.gov/tl/summer-learningprograms/.

What resources will be available?

To assist with implementation, tools and resources will be made available. Those include,
but are not limited to, the following:

  • List of approved reading assessments including the performance levels at which a
    deficiency is identified
  • Supplemental reading program template
  • Communication tools
  • Information about summer reading opportunities

Are districts required to report student scores?

School districts are not required to report data related to K-3 reading performance to the NDE. It is recommended that such data be used locally to inform decisions about policies and practices that support students in gaining reading proficiency.

Can more than one assessment be used to identify a reading deficiency?

Schools must select a single universal screener from the approved list. While this screener should be the primary tool used to identify a deficiency, diagnostic tools and other types of formative assessment may continue to be used. 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.

Should parents of struggling readers be invited to help create the Individualized Reading Plan?

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. Once the plan is implemented, parents or guardians should be informed of progress as well as receive tools and resources that will help them support literacy in the home environment.

How were the threshold levels for the approved assessments decided?

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/.

What if a student is still struggling in 4th grade and beyond?

The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act addresses reading instruction and intervention for students in grades K-3, however, it is recommended that the system of supports developed in earlier grades be used to inform ongoing interventions.

If a student is determined to have a reading deficiency before the end of the school year, does an Individual Reading Improvement Plan (IRIP) need to be implemented that same school year?

Yes. The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act states: Any student who is identified as having a reading deficiency shall receive an individual reading improvement plan no later than thirty days after the identification of such reading deficiency. It may be necessary to adjust existing assessment practices and timelines in order to maximize the length of time students receive intervention during the school year. Not only does the IRIP outline instructional approaches, but it contains essential information such as summer programming and suggested home supports. Without timely implementation of the IRIP, students miss opportunities to accelerate their reading proficiency.

Can a supplemental intervention program come from the core curriculum?

Yes. Many core programs offer programs of intervention 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 5 areas of early literacy: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies. Some students may need less intensive support that is of shorter duration. Therefore, 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.

What is the timeline for administering the three required assessments during the school year?

The first assessment must be administered within the first 30 school days of the year. While decisions about subsequent administrations are made locally, screeners should be scheduled so that other requirements such as parental notification and creation of an Individualized Reading Improvement Plan (IRIP) are met in a timely manner, well before the conclusion of the school year, and at intervals that allow for sufficient time for interventions to occur.

Will students be held back if they are not reading on grade level by Grade 3?

No. The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act does not require students to be held back if they are still demonstrating a reading deficiency at the end of 3rd grade. Schools are encouraged to continue providing supports such as targeted interventions to struggling students in 4th grade and beyond.

By administering an approved assessment to Kindergarten and Grade 1 students, are schools in violation of Rule 10 115.01B which states, “Whole grade norm-referenced assessment using a national assessment instrument begins no earlier than grade two…”?

No. In accordance with the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act, districts are required to administer an assessment 3x annually to all students in Grades K-3 from the approved list, some of which are norm-referenced.  When there is a conflict between statute and rule, statute supersedes rule, thus no violation of Rule 10 would be issued. Districts will be informed as rules are revised and updated to reflect current legislative requirements.

Updated June 13, 2019 3:54pm