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Literacy screening scores down 21% among Iowa 1st graders

According to the Iowa Department of Education, more than 90% of Iowa schools are currently providing at least 50% instruction in person.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa elementary students are starting to fall behind, according to the Iowa Department of Education. 

For that reason, Gov. Kim Reynolds renewed her call to get kids back in the classroom if it's safe to do so. 

"As we learn more about the virus and how it's impacting schools and how it's not, we should challenge ourselves to think differently and find ways to push forward and again get our kids back in the classroom," Reynolds said.

Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo said information provided from schools showed even when communities are experiencing high positivity rates, the spread typically isn't happening in schools. 

"Based on some initial information we have received from 125 schools who have provided us with data, roughly 3% of their students tested positive from the beginning of the school year through the end of November and 22% have been quarantined," Lebo said. "Currently, 1% of students have tested positive, and 2.6% are quarantined. 80% are fully in person using masks and distancing, reinforcing that with hard work, planning and layered mitigation strategies, we can both manage the virus and have students back in school."

Right now, Lebo said more than 90% of Iowa schools are currently providing at least 50% instruction in person.

Annually, Lebo said Iowa screens students in grades K-3 to ensure they're on track to be proficient readers. 

This fall, those scores came back lower than normal. 

"We saw a drop in literacy screening scores for each of grades K-3, but most significantly for first grade," Lebo said. "Decreases range from five percentage points for kindergarten to 21% for first grade, but we have the time, opportunity and capacity to intervene now to ensure that our students do not fall farther behind."

Reynolds said this month she's kicking off a series of meetings with parents of school-aged children in districts across the state to learn about their educational experiences during the pandemic.