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For the week of Oct. 6, 1999 through Oct. 12, 1999

New early reading assessment for Blaine County students

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County students in kindergarten through third grade have completed the first round of a new state reading assessment.

The State Department of Education is developing the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI) to meet requirements of the Idaho Literacy Act passed by the Legislature this spring. The test will be administered again mid term.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Marilyn Howard said that the assessment needs to be field tested so that educators can work the bugs out. Only then can it become a useful tool for schools.

Hemingway reading specialist Janet Cantor led the team of teachers and administrators responsible for administering the test. She said the test is intended to be an early intervention indicator.

"We don’t want children showing up in middle school not knowing how to read," she said.

The State Department of Education will work with the National Regional Education Laboratory (NRL) during this pilot year to determine whether the IRI does a good job of finding kids who need help in reading.

Last month, the Department of Education staff trained Cantor, teacher Martha Christiansen and school administrator Blake Walsh, both of the Blaine County School District, on how to give the IRI. Legislators specified that the assessment be given in 10 minutes or less by someone other than the classroom teacher.

Cantor, Christiansen and Walsh led a team of 13 other teachers in a four-day testing blitz of local schools.

Kindergartners were tested for pre-reading skills, Cantor said, which required the students to write their names, recognize rhyming words and count the number of syllables in words.

Students in grades one through three were tested for reading fluency and accuracy, Cantor said, which required students to show proficiency with words and simple sentences in first grade and to be able to read a paragraph and answer comprehension questions about it in second and third grades.

Cantor said that because the test is still in development, educators won’t be able to draw any conclusions about student reading ability until next year.


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