The state extends window to test reading

The State Department of Education has extended the Idaho Reading Indicator testing window to accommodate schools that started the year late or used an online delivery model.

Originally, the window to administer the IRI test to all Idaho K-3 students was supposed to close Friday. Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra approved extending testing through Oct. 9 after some schools called to ask about the deadline or if an extension would be available.

Several districts didn’t start school until after Labor Day this year, and a few large districts started in an online-only or hybrid education model. The extension gives them more time and options, the SDE said.

“Really this is all about flexibility and Superintendent Ybarra has said that from day one she wanted to provide as much flexibility as we can,” SDE Communications Director Karlynn Laraway said.

The IRI is administered to K-3 students in the fall and again in the spring to gauge students’ reading ability and then progress. So far this year, more than 77,000 students have taken the IRI, Director of Assessment and Accountability Kevin Whitman said.

The SDE doesn’t know exactly how many students have yet to take the fall IRI test because enrollment numbers have not been finalized, Laraway said.

The SDE believes most students will be able to take the test in person at school this fall, in a standardized setting. But, just as it did in the spring, the SDE can make arrangements for a school, a classroom or even an individual student to take the test remotely.

Although many big schools will utilize the expanded testing window, not all schools need it.

In the remote Bruneau-Grand View School District in southwest Idaho, teachers began testing students during the first week of school. Superintendent Ryan Cantrell said the district completed IRI testing and is using the data to move into a second round of formative assessments to see if students are making progress.

Bruneau-Grand View’s baseline fall data was 20-40 percent below baseline data from 2019, Cantrell said. Testing data the IRI provides is valuable to take stock of where students are today and how disruptions associated with pandemic affect students, he said.

Some of the decrease may be attributed to testing in August instead of September, but Cantrell believes most of it is because of widespread school closures in the spring of last year.

“The next major challenge for us (and probably most of the American education system) is going to be ‘what to do about the quarter of education that our students missed in spring 2020?!’” Cantrell wrote in an email to Idaho Education News. “Our IRI assessments are indicating that most of our elementary students are starting off the 2020 year considerably behind where they started in the fall of 2019. We’ve got a lot to make up for in the time we have them this year.”

Schools do not need any special permission to take advantage of the longer testing window, it was automatically extended until Oct. 9. Even with the disruptions related to the pandemic, the SDE expects all K-3 students to take the IRI before the window closes, Whitman said.

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