What is the Early Warning System for Literacy?

Iowa's Early Warning System for Literacy includes universal screening to identify students at-risk for reading difficulties, progress monitoring to track student performance, and online resources to guide literacy instruction.

Iowa's Early Warning System for Literacy

The Early Warning System is so named because the goal is to find reading deficiencies – individual or structural – long before they become a problem. To do this, schools across Iowa use Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring assessments, and house student performance data on a statewide database.

Universal screening is the first step to identify students at-risk for reading difficulties. These assessments are administered to all students three times a year, in the fall, winter, and spring. Universal screening measures are brief assessments that focus on a variety of targeted skills.

Progress monitoring assessments are administered to only those students who are receiving additional instruction or intervention, to determine if students are improving in reading.

Together, these assessments represent a valid and reliable early warning system to identify students who are on track, as well as students who are not progressing adequately toward reading proficiency.

Iowa provides assessments for Pre-Kindergarten through 6th grade levels at no cost to schools. These assessments are fully online modules and align with the Iowa TIER, a statewide assessment and data system available to all Iowa schools. Learn more about how Iowa’s assessments and progress monitoring tools were chosen.

Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST) K-6

FAST provides a suite of assessments and progress monitoring tools that track students’ performance in the following areas:

  • Phonological awareness
  • Sounds
  • Words
  • Text reading
  • Reading behaviors

Learn more about FAST

Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDI's) for PreK

IGDIs offers five measures across four domains:

  • Oral language
  • Phonological analysis
  • Alphabet knowledge
  • Comprehension


Find a variety of tools, tips and guides here >

Iowa Tier (Tools for Innovation and Educational Results)

The state of Iowa has purchased Iowa TIER, a data system with the capability to house universal screening, intervention, and progress monitoring data for every student in the state. Iowa TIER has been established so that all students will experience a dynamic instructional environment, one that adapts to meet their continually changing needs, in order to optimize learning and student outcomes.

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Iowa Colleges and Universities

The Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC) is proud to partner with Iowa’s Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) to align statewide literacy initiatives with pre-service teacher preparation. All 29 of Iowa’s colleges and universities with elementary teacher preparation programs have participated in training to administer and use the FAST and IGDIs assessments as part of Iowa’s Early Warning System for Literacy. The IRRC provides and supports Iowa’s IHEs with their own data system, identical to Iowa Tier, which is used to train future educators in practicum and pre-service settings. Iowa’s IHE and the IRRC continue to collaborate through ongoing webinars and support.

Many IHEs have expressed interest in partnering with Iowa schools and their contact information can be found below.

View the IHE Contact List here

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