Monday, August 21, 2017


In 2002, the Idaho Comprehensive Literacy Plan law was modified in Senate Bill 1412 to include a provision that only students who were enrolled 90% of the schools day between fall and spring IRI testing were to be counted for purposes of goal attainment on the IRI. The change was made so that schools and teachers were not held accountable in a given year for kids who showed up a week before the test, for example. The new provision was in place until SB 1614 was put in place last year - the new law had no provision for considering mobility.

The State Department of Education recently provided data to school districts about student mobility, which has been very helpful. However,  the public site which has IRI data dating back to 2006 does not include any consideration of student mobility.

So why is this important? Let's take a look at the data for 2 Boise schools, using cohort IRI data.

The Assessment

First, it's important to understand the scoring of the IRI. The test is administered on an individual basis in fall and spring of a given year by trained administrators (often former teachers), and takes between 15 and 25 minutes for most students. The results are scored on a 3 point scale.  A score of "3" is considered "proficient", "2" is basic, and "1" is below basic. The IRI does not measure "above grade level" skill in reading.

The kindergarten assessment is meant to measure growth in letter naming and letter sound fluency. In first grade, letter - sound fluency is measured in the fall along with fluent reading on a basic passage. Beginning in the spring of first grade, each assessment measures reading fluency - fluent reading rate on increasingly complex passages.

Mobility Case Studies

For these studies, we looked at 2013 fall kindergarten and 2017 spring 3rd grade data, and analyzed the changes in student population and IRI performance.

Horizon Elementary

Horizon Elementary is a large elementary school on the Boise bench which has high mobility and about 66% free and reduced lunch. Horizon was built in 1992 to relieve overcrowding in Boise's West End.

In the fall of 2013, Horizon had 115 kindergartners, each of whom took the Idaho Reading Indicator. Of that total group, 50% scored at "grade level" ( a score of "3"). The statewide fall kindergarten "at grade level" percentage was 54.5%.

We wanted to know how many of those kindergartners were still around in the spring of 3rd grade, and how they did on the IRI.

In the fall of 2013, 115 kindergartners took the Idaho Reading Indicator at Horizon. Half of those students were ready to read, according to the IRI, 5% fewer than in the state as a whole. Of those students, 49 (43%) were still at Horizon in the spring of 3rd grade. Of those 49, 81% were at grade level on the spring 3rd grade IRI, 6% better than the state average. 66 of the original 115 (57%) were no longer enrolled at Horizon.

Of the 66 students who moved, 23 did so within the Boise District. 36 moved within the state of Idaho (16 to West Ada), and 7 moved out of state.

In the spring of 2017, there were 49 third graders who had moved in since kindergarten. 16 had moved from another Boise school, 22 came from within the state (14 from West Ada), and 11 came from outside the state of Idaho. One student arrived during kindergarten, 7 arrived during 1st grade, 14 during 2nd grade, and 27 during third grade.  67% of the "new" students scored at grade level on the IRI at the end of third grade.

Roosevelt Elementary

Roosevelt is an elementary school of about 300 students in northeast Boise just off of Warm Springs Avenue. Roosevelt had a free/reduced lunch percentage of 18% in May, 2017. The school was originally built in 1920 and received a complete renovation in 2010.

In fall, 2013, 40 kindergartners took the IRI at Roosevelt. 92% of those students scored at grade level on the assessment. In spring of 3rd grade, 27 of those students (68%) were still enrolled at Roosevelt. 96% of those remaining scored a "3" on the spring 3rd grade IRI.

13 students (32%) transferred after the kindergarten assessment. Of those students, 8 changed schools within the District, 2 within the state, and 3 moved to homeschooling or to a charter.

Twenty-one (21) students came to Roosevelt during or after kindergarten. Of those students, 7 came from within the District, 5 came from in-state (4 from West Ada), and 9 came from outside the state (4 from California).  Two came during kindergarten, 7 in first grade, 6 in second grade, and 3 in the third grade. 91% of these students scored at "grade level on the IRI in spring of 3rd grade.

The Point of All This

We live in a tremendously mobile society. Teachers are faced with the enormous task of dealing with constant mobility among their students. At Horizon, for example, a "cohort" of students may actually feature more than 50% mobility from grades k-3. Sp over half the students in kindergarten will transfer during that period of time, and will be replaced by other students moving into the school. Some students may attend 4 or 5 schools during that time.

Apart from the challenges of socialization for so many students, starting and stopping at a number of schools often affects achievement among those kids. But since we have no control over the movement of families and students, the least we can do is to consider the achievement of students who are non-mobile. At Horizon, for example, 81% of non-mobile students were at grade level in spring of 3rd grade - in kindergarten, the percentage was 50 - truly remarkable growth. For Roosevelt, the percentage of non-mobile students who were at grade level at the end of 3rd grade was 96% - up four percent from kindergarten.

The fact that consideration of mobility is no longer a part of the IRI legislation is truly unfortunate. The old law required that it be considered each year. It's really not fair to hold teachers and schools accountable for the achievement of students who moved in just before the test, whether they achieved at grade level or below. If they continue in the school, then it makes sense - this kind of consideration of mobility is part of the federal testing requirement for ESSA - it should be for state assessments, as well.