Friday, November 23, 2018


Fall kindergarten results from the new (IStation) Idaho Reading Indicator make clear (again) that Pre-kindergarten classes are needed in Idaho.

Across the state, 45% of kindergartners were judged to be at grade level on the new assessment, a bit lower than on the previous IRI, but still demonstrative of the need for preparation of entering kinders.

As it was with the "old" IRI, the new one is highly reflective of poverty. Though there are a few surprises, in general schools with higher poverty levels perform more poorly on the Fall kindergarten IRI than do those with lower levels of poverty. Put simply, more kids in those high-poverty schools lack the pre-reading skills necessary for "grade level" performance on pre-reading tasks.

About 3/4 of statewide schools with kindergartens were provided by the State Department of Education for analysis. Just over 100 schools had few enough kindergartners so as to require data masking of the number of "grade level" students. Even so, it was no surprise that particular high poverty schools had the lowest percentages of grade level students.

In the Treasure Valley, the lowest percentages of "grade level" kindergartners were at these schools:

Cynthia Mann, in northwest Boise, is a bit of a surprise, but it's not unusual to have a low-scoring kindergarten class once in a while. The other nine are not one bit unexpected.

All told, there were seventy schools with under a third of their students ready for kindergarten reading. These schools would be a great subject for an affordable pilot in Idaho, to see if high quality pre-k will make a difference for us.

Just by way of comparison, here are the ten highest-scoring kinder classes by school in the Treasure Valley. You hardly need the grade level info to predict which schools are on this list, as long as you have the free/reduced lunch percentages.

Schools like Highlands aren't on this list because they didn't have enough students in one or more categories (scores of 3, 2, or 1). 

As you might expect, most charters are at the top end of the scale, with high percentages of students at grade level.

There are two charters that show low levels of kindergarten readiness on the new IRI-  Blackfoot Community Charter, which has 52% free/reduced lunch and about 27% on grade level, and Heritage Community Charter in Caldwell, with 70% frl and 30% at grade level on the fall 2018 kindergarten IRI. Note from above  that I.T. Stoddard Elementary in Blackfoot  and a number of Caldwell schools have very low readiness levels, as well. Otherwise, the other 100 lowest grade level rates are at public schools with high levels of poverty.

The evidence is convincing to us. High quality pre-k programs at high poverty schools with low readiness rates will make a difference. We have shown it at Hawthorne and Whitney in the Boise District. Let's give it a try in a pilot!