Reading Revisited: Catch up on our literacy project

As the state launches its $11.25 million reading initiative, we teamed up with Idaho Public Television’s “Idaho Reports” to look at the rampup.

Our joint project dropped last week, with stories here at, and Friday’s “Idaho Reports” focused on student literacy.

Let’s get you caught up, under one roof.

“Idaho Reports”

Producer Seth Ogilvie looks into the science of learning to read, talking to experts at Boise State University. He also looks at success stories in the McCall-Donnelly School District, which boasts some of the state’s highest Idaho Standards Achievement Test scores. In the weekly pundits segment, I join Boise School District Superintendent Don Coberly and Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review to look at the literacy initiative process, and the politics behind it.

The Idaho Education News-“Idaho Reports” series

Here’s a thumbnail look at our six stories:

Idaho’s literacy plan. The numbers are startling: About 40 percent of Idaho’s kindergarten through third-grade students show up each fall without grade-level reading skills. As a result, Idaho is spending $11.25 million this year to provide extra help for struggling readers. But it’s up to local school districts and charter schools to figure out how to spend their cut of the money.

Digging into the literacy numbers. Districts with more at-risk readers receive a bigger share of Idaho’s $11.25 literacy money. And these districts tend to face some underlying demographic challenges. Here, we dig into the numbers, with interactive graphics that allow you to see how your local school stacks up.

A test of political patience and political will. Improving Idaho’s reading scores could require a multiyear, multimillion dollar commitment. In 2017, lawmakers will have to decide whether to continue funding the reading initiative — in the absence of any hard numbers on student achievement.

A rewrite for Idaho’s reading test. Educators say there are numerous shortcomings with the Idaho Reading Indicator — a snapshot test designed to identify at-risk readers. State superintendent Sherri Ybarra wants to spend $5.9 million to revamp or replace the IRI. But a change could come just as politicians, parents and educators try to gauge the results of the reading initiative.

Reading and special education. With the right instruction, most special education students can increase their literacy. But do Idaho schools have the resources and knowledge to provide those tools? Melissa Davlin of “Idaho Reports” takes an in-depth look.

Literacy budget glitches. Also from Melissa Davlin: The $11.25 million literacy initiative provides extra money to help at-risk readers across the state. But there are exceptions to that rule.

And this week’s podcast

On Friday’s “Extra Credit,” I talk with Clark Corbin about the literacy series. (And the latest education news from a busy week at the Statehouse and the State Board of Education.) Listen to what will be (probably) our final podcast of 2016.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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