For about 20 years Idaho’s kindergarten through third grade students have taken a test called the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI); however, this fall many K-3 students will be part of a pilot for a brand new IRI test. Fifty-seven schools in 37 districts will be participating.
In 2016 a team of educators recommended a replacement of the old IRI test, which only tested students on fluency, and while it identified at-risk readers, it did not diagnose their problems. The new computer-based test will provide teachers with not only student reading speed but also with a better understanding of student reading skills including comprehension as well as vocabulary, spelling, and decoding. Teresa Jones, Elementary Programs Director for the Twin Falls School District said that as education becomes more data driven, the state now needs a test that goes beyond counting words read per minute.
Unfortunately for the K-3 students involved in the pilot, they will also have to take the old IRI. One of Idaho’s largest school districts, the Boise School District, did not apply for the pilot for this very reason although they will be studying how the pilot will impact infrastructure needs (such as tablets and Chromebooks). According to a press release last Monday, the Idaho SDE stated, “A team will work with schools and review results [of both tests] to determine if any changes are needed before the state-wide rollout in 2018-19.”
Idaho launched a new literacy initiative in 2016 that funded public and charter schools with money based on the number of K-3 students who scored below grade level on the IRI, since some 36,000 K-3 students were estimated to arrive at school each fall with low reading skills. The funds began to be used this last year for students to get the help they needed to remediate their reading problems that contributed to scoring below grade level. As politicians and parents ponder the results of the $11.25 million initiative, they may well see this new test “become the metric the state uses to carve up literacy dollars,” as suggested by Kevin Richart of Idaho Education News.
“Eight Magic Valley Schools to Try New Reading Test.” Times-News. 16 May 2017. http://magicvalley.com.
“Fifty-seven Idaho Schools to Try Out New Reading Test.” Education Week. 17 May 2017. www.edweek.org.
“Idaho Districts Selected for New Idaho Reading Indicator Pilot to Kick Off this Fall.” Idaho State Department of Education Press Release. 15 May 2017. www.sde.idaho.gov.
Richert, Kevin. “Schools Prepare to Test Idaho’s New Reading Test.” Idaho Education News. 25 May 2017. www.idahoednews.org.