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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Public schools improve kids’ reading levels

Taryn Brodwater Staff writer

Kootenai County public schools have shown dramatic gains over the past five years in the number of early elementary school students reading at grade level, according to test scores released Wednesday by Idaho’s Department of Education.

The gains by K-3 students in each of Kootenai County’s three large public school districts exceed the overall improvement statewide since the launch of an effort in 2001 to boost the reading ability of Idaho’s youngest students.

A handful of schools in the Coeur d’Alene School District and in some of North Idaho’s smaller districts, however, missed some of the state goals for spring 2005. The goals call for 55 percent of kindergartners, 65 percent of first graders and 70 percent of second graders to be reading at grade level.

Valley View Elementary in Boundary County, St. Maries’ Heyburn Elementary, Lakeside Elementary in Worley, five of seven elementary schools in the Lake Pend Oreille District, three in Coeur d’Alene and Harrison Elementary missed the goal for first-grade reading. Valley View also missed the goal for kindergartners, and Heyburn also fell short of the goal for second-grade students.

The goals for kindergarten, first grade and second grade will increase by 5 percentage points next year, and schools will have the additional target of 85 percent of third-grade students reading at grade level.

Barney Brewton, an administrator with the Post Falls School District, said he was impressed with the improvement in his district – especially among kindergartners. In spring 2001, 60 percent of kindergarten students tested at grade level. This spring, 89 percent of students tested at grade level.

Last year’s kindergartners entered the school year with fewer than half reading at grade level, Brewton said. He said the growth from fall to this spring is a testament to the focus classroom teachers and teachers in the district’s Title I program for struggling readers have placed on helping at-risk kids.

Brewton said the improvement is also an outcome of the research available to the districts and of constant testing to monitor growth throughout the school year.

The Idaho Reading Indicator is given to students in the fall when they enter school, in the winter and in the spring toward the end of the school year.

Each test gets progressively harder.

Coeur d’Alene Assistant Superintendent Hazel Bauman said the district’s kindergartners continued to perform well on the Idaho Reading Indicator.

Those students are tested on reading readiness skills, she said, like being able to recognize letters and letter sounds, as well as identify a few “sight words,” or words that should be familiar.

She said the district is concerned about the performance of its first-grade students. Bryan, Sorensen and Winton elementary first graders missed the state’s goals.

Not a single school in the district was identified as falling short of the goal for second graders, but Bauman said there are still areas the district would like to see improve.

Only three of the district’s 10 elementary schools met the goal the state has set for third-grade students for next year, she said.

“We’re just working really hard with the principals and the Title I programs and special education programs to help and support those teachers to help more kids,” she said.

Bauman said the Idaho Reading Indicator results are important because students who have trouble reading early in their elementary years can have greater problems as they continue in school.

“Research now is that if you don’t reach a certain level of fluency in first, second and third grade, that you don’t ever become sort of an automatic reader,” she said.

“It can interfere with comprehension in later grades.”

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