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Early student reading assessments begin this school year

Posted at 1:16 PM, Aug 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-24 14:16:58-04

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new state law requiring Nebraska public school students to undergo the first of three reading assessments within 30 days of starting school is scheduled to go into effect this school year.

The assessments provided by the Nebraska Department of Education are designed to identify children in kindergarten through third grade who may have a reading deficiency, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Under the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act, students who are struggling must be entered into a special reading intervention program.

Cory Epler, the department’s chief academic officer, said many schools already had similar assessment systems in place. School officials in Omaha and Elkhorn said the new requirements wouldn’t significantly change how students’ reading skills are assessed in those districts.

“The law is kind of the starting point,” said Jadi Miller, director of assessment for the Elkhorn Public Schools. “And then we’ve found ways to kind of supplement around that to make sure that we have a full and accurate picture of what a student can do or where they might need extra support.”

Gregory Betts, the director of professional learning for Westside Community School in Omaha, said the district changed its curriculum in the 2015-2016 school year to ensure that children leaving kindergarten have the reading skills they need to progress. The district relies on scientifically proven methods to teach reading, he said.

If a child is found to have a reading deficiency, they will not be held back.

State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan introduced the law in 2018. Linehan said she is dyslexic and struggled with reading at school.

“It is OK if your child is not at grade level,” she said. “There’s ways to get them there.”