Where are Idaho’s fall reading scores?

When the State Department of Education released some fall reading scores on Oct. 17, the agency said there’d be more to come.

“Final statewide results, along with district- and school-level results from the fall 2019 (Idaho Reading Indicator), are expected to be available early next month,” the department said in a news release.

Today is Nov. 12 — which means early November has pretty much come and gone.

So, where are the rest of the scores?

Idaho Education News has filed a public records request for the full IRI scores. Last week, the SDE said it had only “raw data,” and did not have district- and school-level data available.

Raw data is student-level data, exempt from release under state law.

“I hope you understand that it would be a clear violation of the law for my client to disclose student level data to your client,” deputy attorney general Leslie Hayes said in a Nov. 4 email to Tim Fleming, Idaho Education News’ attorney.

The SDE has to go through all of the student data, remove duplicate data sets and remove data for “students that cannot be identified as being enrolled in the school,” Hayes wrote. When that’s done, the department can calculate local results.

The SDE’s Oct. 17 data release was skeletal at best.

The state only released statewide reading scores by grade. Kindergarten reading scores dropped from the previous fall, with only 43 percent of students arriving for school at grade level, but scores improved in first, second and third grade.

The full data report is important, because it will allow parents and patrons to see how K-3 students fared in their neighborhood schools — and see how this fall’s numbers compare to fall 2018, the first time students across the state took the new version of the IRI. It also will provide a glimpse at the “summer melt:” the change in scores from spring to fall.

But not only are the district- and school-level numbers under wraps, so too are numbers that break down scores by demographic groups. There is no way of knowing yet how Hispanic students fared on the fall test, for example, or students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch. Several of these demographic “achievement gaps” narrowed a bit last year, but the gaps remain wide and prevalent.

When the fall scores are released in full, they could come under close scrutiny. This year, Idaho legislators doubled the budget for early literacy programs. They granted Gov. Brad Little’s $26 million request, even though Boise State University researchers said it is too early to measure the success of the literacy program, launched in 2016.

The fall scores will provide an early benchmark for the expanded literacy program.

Coming in December: Will Idaho’s $26 million literacy program help prepare students for the rest of their school career? Idaho Education News will take an in-depth look at Idaho’s reading challenge.


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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