Reading scores improve, approach pre-pandemic levels

Idaho reading scores are up from a year ago — and many are almost back to pre-pandemic levels.

Scores increased across the board on the spring Idaho Reading Indicator, a screener for kindergarten through third-grade students.

And the improvements come as the state puts increased taxpayer money into early literacy, one of Gov. Brad Little’s education priorities.

More than 68% of K-3 students tested at grade level on the spring IRI — up 17 percentage points from last fall, when 51% of students arrived for the school year with grade-level reading skills.

The spring 2022 scores also represent across-the-board gains from the spring of 2021, the first year after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s a breakdown of spring IRI scores from 2019, 2021 and 2022. (The IRI was put on hold in the spring of 2020, as schools went online during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The numbers below show the percentage of students scoring at grade level, pre- and post-pandemic:

Grade 2019 2021 2022
Kindergarten 63.1 61.3 64.8
First grade 66.7 59.5 63.8
Second grade 75.3 69.2 72.4
Third grade 73.2 70.1 71.7
All grades 69.7 65.1 68.2

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra hailed the spring scores, and predicted continued gains.

“We expect to see continued improvement in the coming years, closing in on our goal of making sure all Idaho students learn to read by third grade so they can read to learn for the rest of their lives,” Ybarra said in a news release Wednesday.

In March, weeks before 90,682 K-3 students took the spring IRI, legislators put $72 million into the literacy program — a one-year, $46 million increase, as Little proposed. Schools can put this added money into all-day kindergarten programs, but they aren’t required to. Schools can instead use the money to hire reading coaches, offer summer programs, or take other steps to help struggling readers.

At-risk student groups continued to lag behind their peers.

Only 39% of English language learners read at grade level, down from 45% in spring 2019.

Only 34% of students with disabilities scored at grade level, up from 32% in 2019.

Top achievers

Here are the top 10 districts and charters for spring 2022, based on the percentages of K-3 students at grade level:

  • Gem Prep Online, Meridian: 91.2%
  • North Idaho STEM Charter Academy, Rathdrum: 89.5%
  • Cambridge School District: 89.4%
  • Compass Public Charter School, Meridian: 88.8%
  • North Star Charter School, Eagle: 87.7%
  • Cottonwood School District: 87.3%
  • Council School District: 85.2%
  • Troy School District: 85.1%
  • Gem Prep, Meridian: 85.0%
  • Rockland School District: 84.4%

Find out how your school performed

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report.

Kevin Richert

About 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 KIVI 6 On Your Side; "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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