Leaders from the Iowa Department of Education and the University of Iowa’s College of Education on Aug. 3 named Deborah Reed as the next director of the Iowa Reading Research Center, which has a critical role in a statewide effort to make sure all children read well by the end of third grade.
Reed has served as a researcher and faculty member at Florida State University’s Florida Center for Reading Research, where she has focused on identifying and intervening with struggling readers in general and special education classrooms.
She begins her new role as the Iowa Reading Research Center transitions to a new home at the UI. The center, which was created by the Iowa Legislature and is overseen by the Iowa Department of Education, launched in 2012 at Grant Wood Area Education Agency in Cedar Rapids.
“Deborah Reed has the background, expertise, and leadership skills needed to build on the momentum set by the Iowa Reading Research Center, and the University of Iowa has the strong research focus needed to help the center deliver on its legislative charge,” says Ryan Wise, Iowa Department of Education director. “This is truly a partnership that will take Iowa’s literacy efforts to the next level.”
The Iowa Reading Research Center’s purpose is to turn research into best practices so that schools provide the most effective reading instruction and all Iowa children become successful readers by the end of third grade. While reading is important at all grade levels, the end of third grade is widely considered the point at which most children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”
"I admire the way Iowans have united around a deep commitment to reading. The extraordinary collaboration between the K-12 education system, higher education, state policymakers, and community partners is one of the many reasons I pursued this new position."
—Deborah Reed, new director of the Iowa Reading Research Center
The UI was chosen as the Iowa Reading Research Center’s new home because of its strength as one of the nation’s top public research universities, with a great deal of faculty expertise in literacy as well as resources to support the continued growth of the center.
“We are absolutely committed to strengthening reading instruction as one of the primary skills of our teachers,” says Nicholas Colangelo, dean of the UI College of Education. “The Iowa Reading Research Center will further our commitments and collaborations. Early reading skills and success will be defining characteristics of Iowa’s primary schools.”
The Iowa Reading Research Center’s responsibilities include the development of reading assessments and evidence-based reading interventions, professional development training for educators, reviewing and making available literacy resources for Iowa families, and developing guidelines for intensive summer reading programs that schools must have in place by 2017.
Reed will begin her new role as the center’s director on Aug. 18. She has also received a faculty appointment in the UI College of Education.
“I admire the way Iowans have united around a deep commitment to reading,” Reed says. “The extraordinary collaboration between the K-12 education system, higher education, state policymakers, and community partners is one of the many reasons I pursued this new position. I look forward to partnering with these stakeholders and listening to school leaders and educators who are on the front lines of this work.”
About Iowa’s early literacy progression law
Research shows reading proficiency by the end of third grade is an important predictor of school success, and early intervention for struggling readers is essential. This is why Iowa lawmakers adopted legislation in 2012 that requires schools to identify and intervene with students in kindergarten through third grade who are struggling to read.
By May 1, 2017, every school district in Iowa must provide an intensive summer reading program for students identified as having a substantial deficiency in reading at the end of third grade. Students who are substantially deficient in reading by the end of third grade will have the opportunity to complete an intensive summer reading program that meets state standards. Completing the summer program will allow these students to move to fourth grade. Students who are substantially deficient in reading at the end of third grade and who did not complete a summer reading program must be retained in third grade unless they qualify for an exemption, according to the law.
Iowa’s education system has responded to this law with a focus on prevention and early intervention, as well as an unprecedented level of collaboration between the Iowa Reading Research Center, the Iowa Department of Education, area education agencies, school districts, colleges and universities, parents, and community partners.