(DES MOINES) – Gov. Kim Reynolds kicked off her Start of School tour Tuesday morning at Edmunds Fine Arts Academy in Des Moines. The governor and Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise will stop in the Emmetsburg Community School District Tuesday afternoon. Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg will join the tour Wednesday for stops in the Forest City, Central Springs and Garner-Hayfield-Ventura community school districts.

State leaders are looking at long-term ways to strengthen Iowa’s workforce talent pipeline. One important early step is ensuring all students read proficiently by the end of third grade. In 2012, Iowa adopted a major initiative to identify struggling readers and provide intensive intervention. Now, school districts screen students’ reading skills on an assessment three times a year.

Iowa has made significant progress in improving kindergarten-third grade students’ reading skills. 70 percent of students met or surpassed statewide benchmarks during the 2016-17 school year— increasing 3 percent from fall 2016 to spring 2017. That builds on a 4 percent increase during the 2015-16 school year.

“I always talk about the importance of involving others, and improving reading skills is no different,” Gov. Reynolds said. “Iowa’s dedicated teachers and school administrators deserve special credit for improving students’ reading skills.

“Doing more to ensure students are proficient readers by the end of third grade is one of the three initiatives Lt. Gov. Gregg, Dir. Wise and I will focus on during our school visits today and tomorrow,” she continued. “We also want to hear how we can continue to improve these initiatives and support the great work underway by committed educators across the state.”

The other two initiatives are Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System and Iowa’s STEM initiative.