Most at-risk kids are not reading at grade level

Most at-risk student groups in Idaho are not reading at grade level, according to recent results from the fall Idaho Reading Indicator exam. 

About 58% of the 90,000 Idaho students in grades K-3 who took the exam are reading at grade level. But most at-risk student groups are scoring well below that average. 

Students with disabilities, who are learning English, or are from migrant families were most likely to be struggling with reading — in each case, more than 70% are not reading at grade level. 

Student group % of students reading AT grade level % of students reading NEAR or BELOW grade level
Students with disabilities 29.5  70.5 
Migrant 23.8 76.2 
Limited English Proficiency 23.1 76.9 

The news that 70% of students with disabilities are not reading at grade level comes as the Idaho Department of Education is under fire for a special education manual that is out of compliance with federal law. Idaho’s bar for students to qualify for special services is too high, the U.S. Department of Education found. The IDE has until Jan. 18 to review and revise its policies. 

Only a few of the student groups that the IDE measures outperformed the state average, including white students (62.5%); students of two or more races (64.3%); Asian or Pacific Islander students (65%), and students from military families (63.2%). 

The rest were below the state average, and in all but one group (Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander students), fewer than half of students were reading at grade level.

Student group % of students reading AT grade level % of students reading NEAR or BELOW grade level
American Indian or Alaskan Native 38.2 61.8 
Black / African American 40 60
Native Hawaiian / Other Pacific Islander 54 46
Homeless 35.6  64.5
Foster 36.8  63.3
Hispanic or Latino 41.8 58.2
Economically disadvantaged 46.2 53.8

Literacy gaps like these exist nationwide, Journalist Emily Hanford told an Idaho audience in October. Hanford, whose “Sold a Story” investigative podcast sparked a movement to bring the science of reading to schools, said that teaching reading based on expired research has disproportionately harmed students of color and low-income students.

State Superintendent Debbie Critchfield has been an outspoken advocate for the science of reading, a body of research on best practices in literacy instruction, and it was a focus of her 2022 campaign. 

Further reading on the fall IRI: Fall IRI Top 10 Lists: Treasure Valley Schools Reign

Idaho Education News 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