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K-12 Education

Free summer programming to be provided for Cedar Rapids students who need to work on reading skills

The program, Kids on Course University, will serve K-4 students with deficient reading scores

(File Photo) Louis Smith reads during independent reading at the summer school program at Nixon Elementary School in Hiawatha, Iowa, on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
(File Photo) Louis Smith reads during independent reading at the summer school program at Nixon Elementary School in Hiawatha, Iowa, on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — About 750 students with low reading assessment scores from Cedar Rapids Community schools will be invited to attend six weeks of free courses this summer, thanks to funding from a grant announced Thursday.

The $675,000 grant from the 21st Century Community Learning Program will fund the programming, dubbed Kids on Course University and developed by the Zach Johnson Foundation, for the next three years.

”We really want to move the needle on academics, so the kids have to qualify by failing the FAST assessment,” said Beth Malicki, a Zach Johnson Foundation board member. “It’s really reading deficiency that gets you the invitation.”

The Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST) screening tool is used by schools across the state to measure students’ reading proficiency. “Substantially deficient” scores on FAST or another state-recognized assessment will trigger mandatory summer programming or a repeat year for third-graders when Iowa’s third-grade reading and retention law takes effect in 2017.

A smaller version of Kids on Course University has been available to fewer students in the past. Last year, about 200 students from five district schools participated. More than three-quarters of those students reduced or eliminated their summer learning loss and about half improved their reading skills.

That data drove forward the idea of expanding the summer courses, Malicki said.

The expanded programming will serve students from 15 schools identified as “in need of assistance” by the federal government — Arthur, Cleveland, Garfield, Grant, Grant Wood, Harrison, Hiawatha, Hoover, Kenwood, Johnson, Madison, Nixon, Truman, Van Buren and Wright elementary schools.

Courses will run from July 5 to August 15 at Cleveland, Garfield, Grant Wood, Harrison and Hiawatha schools. Transportation and meals will be provided at no extra cost.

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