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/
How were the threshold levels for the approved assessments determined?
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/
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.
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.
Are districts / schools required to administer the same universal screener across all grade levels?
Some schools may choose to use different screeners, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Are students required to receive intervention for a certain number of minutes or days per week?
No. 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. Students can transition off of an Individual Reading Improvement Plan (IRIP) when they can perform at or above the threshold level.
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.
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.
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
Do English Learners (EL’s) need an individualized Reading Improvement Plan?
If a student has been receiving specialized English instruction for less than two years, that student is exempt from participating in the approved reading assessment. Nebraska Rule 15, Regulations and Procedures for English Learner Programs in Nebraska Public Schools, outlines services provided to EL’s in K-12 education. While some districts may provide English language support in Pre-Kindergarten programs, some do not. Therefore, the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act considers specialized English instruction to begin once a student is enrolled in Kindergarten or higher. Because the student would be exempt from participating in the approved assessment, a plan would not be created. Rather, the school team would enact supports such as are described by Rule 15, as well as other local policies and procedures, and that are appropriate to the unique needs of individual students.
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.
- Read something every day. Reading just 20 minutes each day can help your child’s reading skills.
- Choose books of interest to your child to read.
- Ask your child questions about what they read. Talking about the words in the book
helps them understand what they are reading.
- 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.
- Sing rhyming songs, read rhyming books, and say tongue twisters with your child. This helps them learn new sounds in words.
- 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.
- Talk about letters and sounds. Help your child learn the names of the letters and the sounds the letters make.
- Have your child write. Writing grocery lists, notes, or letters helps children connect spoken words to written words.
- 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.
- 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.
Does the school need to share a copy of the IRIP with parents?
The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act requires that parents or guardians be notified of a reading deficiency within 15 working days of the identification, “…and that an individual reading improvement plan will be established and shared with the parents or guardians.”
For more information about IRIPs, please visit https://www.education.ne.gov/nebraskareads/irip-guidance-document/.