Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Reading competency falling short

Regional schools miss state reading goals

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County's first-grade readers missed the mark for growth on the Idaho Reading Indicator test this spring.

"What the intervention will look like is not clearly defined, but it will be soon," said Chris Hanson, state department reading coordinator.

A visit to the school by state officials and changes in curriculum are likely to occur.

Scores, released last week by the State Department of Education, identify first graders at Bellevue, Carey, and Hailey elementary schools as missing the state goal for the reading assessment test.

Throughout Idaho, students in kindergarten through third grade took the Idaho Reading Indicator—known as the IRI—in April and May. Blaine County schools administered the 10-minute test the first week of May.

Launched in 1999, the spring IRI is one of three progressively more difficult reading tests given each year to students in kindergarten, first, second, and third grades as part of a state reading initiative. The state results show that more students read at grade level than the previous five years.

Blaine County's scores fall short of the statewide percent of students reading at grade level.

The Blaine County School District explains the low reading scores as a fault of the way the test is administered.

"I would like to put more faith in the IRI scores that are reported in the state, but the state, in my opinion, is very lax in the way the tests are administered," said Jerry Hutchins, Blaine County School District director of technology, testing and database management.

He said the Blaine County School District uses certified reading professionals to administer the test in a very rigorous way. Due to constraints, other districts do not have the same luxury when testing.

"(Other districts) allow schools to have parent volunteers to come in and test the students ... That is so different from the way we do it," Hutchins said.

Across the district, students did show an overall increase in year-to-year growth on the reading test, which follows a lapse in growth last year.

Overall, Hemingway Elementary students showed the highest achievement with the largest percent of first-, second- and third-grade students reading at grade level. Hailey kindergarten students showed the highest reading proficiency.

Bellevue, Carey and Hailey first-grade students missed the state's goal of 70 percent of students at grade level, or 5 percent growth. Hanson said it is the third year Bellevue and Carey have not met the standard and the second year for Hailey. Bellevue Elementary also missed the third-grade goal of 85 percent at grade level, or 5 percent growth.

Bellevue Elementary recorded the lowest percent of kindergarten, first- and third-grade students reading at grade level. The test data shows a significantly higher proportion of "Limited English Proficient" students at the Bellevue school. All students take the same test, which is offered in English.

The increase in overall growth across the district differs from test results last year. The 2005 results for Blaine County students in kindergarten through third grades showed a decrease in the percentage of students reading at grade level when compared previous years.

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