Idaho K-3 reading tests show decline from pre-pandemic

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The percentage of Idaho students in kindergarten to third grade reading at their grade levels this year fell nearly 5% compared to 2019, state education officials said.

The State Department of Education told the Idaho Statesman in a story published Thursday that testing results show a drop from 69.7% to 65.1%.

Students faced unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus pandemic that prevented testing in 2020, officials said.

School districts across the state switched to remote learning or a hybrid that included in-person learning as officials sought to prevent schools from becoming vectors for the illness that has killed more than 2,100 Idaho residents.

Officials said that only about 50% of K-3 students were reading at their grade levels at the start of the school year, but that teachers identified problems areas and improved that by 15%.

“Now our districts and schools are focused on addressing the effects of any unfinished learning going into this summer and the next school year, making sure students learn to read by third grade so they can read to learn for the rest of their lives,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said in a statement.

The test, called the Idaho Reading Indicator, showed that 69.3% of white students were reading at their grade levels at the end of the school year. About 50% of Hispanic students were reading at grade level, as were 47.1% of Black students.

Only about 43% of homeless students were reading at grade level, while 30.6% of students with disabilities were reading at grade level.

In the West Ada School District, 77.5% of students were reading at grade level at the end of the year, slightly below the 80.3% found at the end of 2019.

Char Jackson, chief communication officer for the school district, said students in kindergarten and first grade improved reading proficiency from fall to spring by 22%.

“In light of the difficulties we all faced in the past months, we are extraordinarily proud of the hard work and dedication of our teachers, students and parents this school year,” she said in an email to the Idaho Statesman.