State Department seeks vendor to revamp elementary reading test

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra is requesting vendors to submit proposals to possibly replace Idaho’s elementary school reading test.

Idaho’s kindergarten through third-grade students take the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI) twice a year to measure growth and proficiency in reading. The test is 20 years old and it’s time to revamp, redo or replace the model, said State Department of Education spokesman Jeff Church.

“We are making a deep focus on early learning and literacy, including a hard look at the IRI,” Ybarra told about 200 school counselors and psychologists on Thursday morning.

Ybarra spoke for 10 minutes to start a two-day conference sponsored by the Idaho School Counselors Association and Idaho School Psychologist Association. During her speech, she mentioned her interest in changing the IRI.

Ybarra has asked for funding to revamp the IRI in her 2017-18 budget request to the governor and Legislature. Ybarra’s budget requests a $5.9 million increase for teacher training and replacing or revamping the IRI. She seeks a  separate $2 million increase for literacy programs.

Vendor proposals to perform the work are due by Nov. 28 and a vendor could be selected in December. The work would begin, pending funding, on July 1. The department intends to continue fall and spring testing. The fall assessment would be used to screen students for interventions; the spring end- of-year assessment will be used for accountability.

The test would be administered electronically. 

The proposal and its recommendations were created by a nine-member Early Literacy Working group. The membership included staff from the State Department of Education and State Board of Education, plus two educators with district assessment coordinating experience, two literacy experts from higher education, an elementary teacher, a principal and two other members with special education backgrounds. 

Ybarra kicked off the two-day counselors’ conference by thanking the group for its “tireless service” to Idaho’s kids. She also recapped her work while in office,  including her efforts to increase state funding for counselors. Ybarra then talked about what’s ahead, and listed literacy as a priority.

“We need to further increase the proficiency rate and math needs a hard look,” she said.

The counselors’ conference includes a variety of workshops on topics including bullying, teen suicide, college and career readiness and ethics in school counseling. Keynote speakers were Julia Taylor, a counselor educator at the University of Virginia, and John Kelly, the president-elect of the National Association of School Psychologists.