Fall reading scores surpass pre-pandemic numbers

Idaho’s kindergarten reading scores skyrocketed this fall, surpassing pre-pandemic fall reading numbers for the first time – and by nearly nine percentage points. First graders similarly eclipsed pre-pandemic fall scores by more than six percentage points.

As a whole, the state’s K-3 students also outpaced their fall 2019 numbers for the first time since Covid-19 shuttered schools and impeded learning across the state and nation. 

From fall to fall, all grade levels are showing steady improvement on the Idaho Reading Indicator, the state’s early reading test. 

“That we’re seeing marked improvement in our first graders’ scores as well as more proficiency in our incoming cohort of kindergarteners is encouraging … ” Sherri Ybarra, the state superintendent, said. “That we’re seeing such progress is a testament to the dedication of our students, teachers, parents and everyone with a stake in the quality of Idaho’s education.”

The gains come as schools are beginning to return to a sense of normalcy after the pandemic. The increases also come after legislators made a $72 million investment into early literacy, a one-year, $46 million increase that Gov. Brad Little proposed. Schools were given discretion about whether to use the funds for all-day kindergarten programs, reading coaches, summer programs, or other steps to help students read. 

All K-3 Idaho public students take the IRI each fall and spring. This year, nearly 90,000 students took the exam between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30. Results are reported in three categories: at, near, or below grade level.

Read below for further breakdowns of the scores, including by grade level, school and district. 

Grades K-1 improve beyond pre-pandemic numbers; 2-3 still haven’t caught up

Kindergarten scores are up nearly 11 percentage points from last fall, and nearly nine from pre-pandemic numbers. 

First graders improved by nearly 15 percentage points from last fall – a whopping increase. They also scored higher fall reading scores than pre-pandemic scores for the first time. 

But second and third graders have yet to surpass their 2019 fall scores. 

                          Fall 2019                                  Fall 2022

Kinder          43.0                                             51.7%

1st                   49.0                                             55.4

2nd                 63.0                                            58.9%

3rd                 64.0                                             60.4%

Ybarra said that was understandable since the pandemic disrupted those grade levels more than the kindergarteners and first graders. 

“Some pandemic learning loss is reflected in their scores, but these students, too, are gaining ground and will continue to progress as our early literacy efforts continue,” she said. 

She’s right in that both second and third graders made gains over the past two falls. 

Second graders (scores in green) are up nearly 13 percentage points from last fall’s scores and more than 15 points higher than the previous year. 

Third graders improved just over three percentage points from last fall, but nearly 19 points from the fall of 2020 (scores in blue). 

                  Fall 2019            Fall 2020            Fall 2021              Fall 2022

Kinder     43.0                       43.5                       40.8                        51.7%

1st            49.0                        41.7                         46.0                       55.4

2nd          63.0                        54.3                         57.3                         58.9%

3rd           64.0                        58.2                         59.3                         60.4%

K – 3     55.0                       49.6                       51.0                      56.7%

Current first graders
Current second graders
Current third graders

A full table of fall and spring numbers shows steady progress, with declines over the summer

When spring numbers are thrown into the mix, they show that students tend to improve their reading over the school year, decline slightly after summer break, but then pick up again. It all equates to steady progress over the years. Below, we’ve highlighted the current third graders’ scores over time in blue. 

                Fall 2019     Fall 2020     Spring 2021   Fall 2021    Spring 2022    Fall 2022

Kinder     43.0            43.5                 61.3                      40.8               64.8                      51.7

1st              49.0             41.7                59.5                     46.0               63.8                      55.4

2nd            63.0             54.3                 69.2                      57.3              72.4                     58.9%

3rd            64.0              58.2                 70.1                      59.3                71.7                      60.4%

K–3         55.0                49.6                 65.1                      51.0                68.2                     56.7%

Top performers: traditional schools, charter schools, and traditional districts

Here’s a look at some of the state’s highest performers on the IRI. Before you look through the lists, keep a few things in mind:

  • These lists don’t account for enrollment differences. In smaller schools and districts, it can be easier to achieve high proficiency rates than in large schools/districts because data more easily skews high or low based on the performance of a relative few.
  • The lists also don’t account for demographic differences, such as a student body’s affluence, English proficiency, or other such factors that can affect a school’s test results. 
  • Some data has been redacted by the state, so not all districts and schools are represented. 
  • For further data, check out the links to full lists of schools, charters, and districts at the bottom of the article. 

Highest Performers: Traditional Schools

Traditional School % of students reading at grade level
Highlands Elementary (Boise) 87.8
Collister Elementary (Boise) 85.4
Cecil D. Andrus Elementary (West Ada) 83.3
Paramount Elementary (West Ada) 83
Galileo Magnet (West Ada) 83
Pioneer School of the Arts (West Ada) 82.6
Longfellow Elementary (Boise) 82.2
Adams Elementary (Boise) 81.8
Trail Wind Elementary (Boise) 81.2
Washington Elementary (Boise) 80.9


Highest Performers: Charter Schools

Charter School % of students reading at grade level
Compass Public Charter School 82.2
North Idaho Stem Charter Academy 79.5
Upper Carmen Public Charter 79.3
Taylor’s Crossing Public Charter 78.8
Liberty Charter  76.6
North Star Charter 76
The Sage International School of Boise 74.1
Vision Charter 73.8
Moscow Charter School 72.9
Rolling Hills Public Charters 72.5
Island Park Charter 71.4


Highest Performers: Traditional Districts 

Traditional Districts %  of students reading at grade level
Grace Joint 78.9
Swan Valley Elementary 75
West Ada 70.1
Council 67.1
Melba Joint 67
Rockland 66.7
Basin 66.2
Garden Valley 66.2
Moscow 65.4
Boise 64.9

To see a list of districts’ scores on the IRI, go here. To see a list of charter schools’ scores on the IRI, go here. To see a list of traditional schools’ scores on the IRI, go here. Keep in mind that schools with redacted data are not included.

Data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report. 

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro reports from her hometown of Pocatello. Prior to joining EdNews, she taught English at Century High and was a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She has won state and regional journalism awards, and her work has appeared in newspapers throughout the West. Flandro has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and Spanish from the University of Montana, and a master’s degree in English from Idaho State University. You can email her at [email protected] or call or text her at (208) 317-4287.

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday