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Young students lost ground in reading during COVID-19 disruptions

Young students lost ground in reading during COVID-19 disruptions

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Neighborhood reading

Dickiesue Cates, a literacy paraeducator at Rock Creek Elementary School, reads to children in the neighborhood Monday afternoon, Aug. 3, 2020, in Twin Falls.

BOISE — New data from the State Board of Education shows fewer Idaho children are reading at grade level than before the pandemic. Overall proficiency on the Idaho Reading Indicator was the lowest in six years.

Students in kindergarten through third grade typically take the IRI standardized test near the beginning and end of each school year. The test was called off in the spring of 2020 amid widespread school closures, so preliminary data from fall 2020 offers the first glimpse of how COVID-19 school disruptions may have impacted student reading skills.

Reading proficiency was lower this fall than last fall in three of four grade levels. Overall reading proficiency among students in grades K-3 was the lowest recorded since at least 2015 with 49.6 percent of students reading at grade level. (Worth noting is that the IRI test itself changed in 2018).

The drop in proficiency wipes out gains from 2019, when reading proficiency in many grades showed an upward trend.

Kindergarten IRI scores were an exception. Around 43 percent of kindergarteners showed up to school ready to read — roughly the same as the year before.

The State Department of Education also tracks the progress of students as they age. The preliminary IRI data shows that two of three student cohorts started this school year with lower reading proficiency than they had last fall.

About 42 percent of first graders were proficient in reading this fall. When they started kindergarten in 2019, 43 percent of those students were considered proficient. Third graders were also less proficient than when they started second grade.

The new class of second graders bucked that trend. Around 55 percent of second graders tested as “proficient” this fall, compared to 50 percent when they entered first grade in 2019.

In other news, the top 10 IRI results this fall were all posted by public charter schools. Of the top 20 best reading scores, 16 are charters.

  • Sage International School: 83.9% percent proficient
  • Compass Public Charter: 77.2 percent proficient
  • North Star Charter: 76.3 percent proficient
  • Moscow Charter: 75.6 percent proficient
  • Vision Charter: 75.0 percent proficient
  • North Idaho STEM Charter Academy: 74.6 percent proficient
  • Inspire Academics: 74.6 percent proficient
  • Victory Charter School: 72.2 percent proficient
  • Xavier Charter School: 70.9 percent proficient
  • Anser of Idaho: 69.2 percent proficient

These IRI results are preliminary, and final results are expected in November. State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra said in a news release, Tuesday, that the state department will analyze district-level results and look at how groups like English language learners and students with disabilities are performing.

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