Friday, December 3, 2004

State releases reading scores

Blaine County students maintain proficiency

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County elementary school students remained in 2004 at about the same level of proficiency as when tested in 2003, according to results of Idaho Reading Indicator tests released by the Idaho State Department of Education. The test provides a tool for teachers and schools to tailor instruction to best meet the needs of its students.

"The test was never meant to be a standardized test, meaning that all of the tests are taken under strict conditions and graded under identical conditions. It was meant to be a guide for instruction to help teachers understand what level each child is at so they could differentiate their instruction to meet each child's needs," Blaine County School District Superintendent Jim Lewis said. "Therefore we are very tough on our standards because we want the teachers to know exactly what the student's strengths or weaknesses might be."

Lewis continued that because of the variables involved in the grading procedure of the test, it is inappropriate to compare statistics across districts in the state. The individuals who grade the tests vary throughout the state from paid professionals to volunteers. Lewis said the grading procedure in Blaine County remained comparable this fall to the previous year, providing a fair year to year comparison of student scores within the district.

The state reported that 73 percent of kindergarten students in the Blaine County School District scored at or near the proficiency standard at that grade level as they did in tests in the fall of 2004.

In the fall of 2003, 74 percent of kindergarten students in the district scored at or near the reading standards. The kindergarten test assesses reading readiness and phonological awareness.

The first through third-grade level tests assess reading fluency and accuracy.

At the first-grade level, 90 percent of Blaine County students scored at or near the standard for that grade. In the fall of 2003, 91 percent of Blaine County first-graders scored at or near the standard.

This fall 78 percent of second-grade students in Blaine County scored at or near the grade level standard. The previous fall, 81-percent of district second-graders scored at or near the standards.

At the third-grade level, 85-percent of the students in the district scored at or near the grade standard. These scores were the same as those recorded in Blaine County during the fall of 2003. The test is administered three times a year to all students in kindergarten through third-grade.

"When the Legislature created this (test), they wanted a 10 minute test to identify students who may need extra help," Allison Westfall, spokesman for the Idaho State Department of Education, said. "It serves as a tool for classroom teachers and schools to identify students and direct funds to the schools that need (the money)."

Westfall explained each test is given during a month-long window. During the testing window, an individual other than a student's teacher administers the test. Tests are given on a one-on-one basis and contain the same questions specific for grade levels throughout the state.

Testers score the tests as they are given, and the scores are then reported to the Idaho State Department of Education. Throughout the year, tests become progressively more difficult.

An Idaho statue sets statewide goals to be met by schools on the reading assessment test given in the spring 2005.

According to the statute, the goal set for the spring 2005 test requires that 55 percent of the kindergarten students at each school score at or above the reading standards set for the grade level.

First-grade must record 65 percent of students at or above grade level. Second-grade must achieve 70 percent of students at or above the grade level standards.

The state staggered the grade levels goals so the goal for the third-grade is not set until the spring of 2006. At that time 85-percent of third-graders will be required to be at or above grade level.

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