Early Literacy Law


In 2012, the Iowa legislature passed the Early Literacy Law. This law is found in Iowa Code Section 279.68 and is highly relevant to students with dyslexia.  The law requires:

  • Universal screening in reading for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade.   Screenings occur three times/year in fall, winter and spring.
  • Progress monitoring for students who are "persistently at risk" in reading. "Persistently at risk" status occurs when a student does not pass the universal screening two times in a row.  Students are deemed "at risk" when they do not pass the universal screening one time.  Please note the Early Literacy Law language was updated in 2016, changing the phrase "substantially deficient" to "persistently at risk."
  • Intensive instruction – 90 minutes daily of scientific, research-based reading instruction is required for students who are "persistently at risk" in reading.  Under the law, the core curriculum counts, so this may not be anything additional to what students already receive.
  • Notice to parents that a student is "persistently at risk" in reading and notice of subsequent progress.
  • Provision of an evidence-based summer reading program for students who are "persistently at risk" in reading.  UPDATE:  In April 2017 the Iowa legislature repealed the requirement for summer reading programs due to lack of funding; other aspects of the Early Literacy Law remain in place.
  • Retention of any student who is not proficient in reading by the end of third grade, did not attend the summer reading program, and does not qualify for a good cause exemption. UPDATE:  In April 2017 the Iowa legislature repealed the third grade retention clause; other aspects of the Early Literacy Law remain in place.


FAST is the universal reading screener used by the majority of Iowa public schools to meet the screening requirements of the Early Literacy Law.  The Iowa Department of Education purchased a state license for FAST (Formative Assessment System for Teachers), and it is available at no cost to Iowa schools.  If a school chooses not to use FAST, they must use something else from the Department's approved list of screening tools.

Remember that FAST is a screening tool designed to quickly identify students who are not on target in their reading skills. FAST will not show WHY a student is having reading problems.  Further assessment is needed to determine a student's needs.  For more information on FAST, read this informative article by Dr. Deborah Reed of the Iowa Reading Research Center.


For more information on the Early Literacy law, visit the Iowa Department of Education's web site on Early Literacy Implementation.