More kindergarten, more reading

State funds target early elementary school readers

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Kids in Idaho are positioned to have a better foundation in reading by the time they finish third grade.

School districts in Idaho received significantly more money from the state this year to provide extra help to students, kindergarten through third grade, who scored a 2 or lower on the Idaho Reading Indicator test.

The goal behind the new law is to get every third-grader proficient in reading before they advance to fourth grade.

Each district is required to provide 60 extra hours of help during the school year to students who scored a 1 on the IRI, and 30 hours of extra help to students who scored a 2.

The state gave Lakeland School District $139,500 to make this happen. With the money, the district decided to implement full-day kindergarten for the first time.

To provide this extra instructional time, three teachers were bumped up to full-time work and the district hired three more part-time teachers. The district is trying to keep class sizes around 18 students, so only students who need the extra help can go to full day class.

“With this money we are able to increase our students’ opportunity for learning,” said the district’s assistant superintendent, Lisa Sexton.

“Parents do love this. We had a dad email our superintendent, Dr. Meyer, to thank her.”

Sexton said the state calculated the money it would allot to each district based on its three-year average of students who scored 1’s and 2’s on the IRI test.

The Post Falls School District anticipates receiving $237,000 of state funding.

Superintendent Jerry Keane said his district won’t be able to provide all-day kindergarten because it doesn’t have the space for it.

Instead, The Post Falls School District is starting an after-school reading program beginning in November for the students who need it. The program will run twice a week and buses will be provided for the students who attend.

“We are currently getting our numbers from the IRI now,” Keane told The Press. “I’m guessing about a third of our students will qualify based on information from years past.”

The Coeur d’Alene School District received $316,000 from the state and has decided to spend the money in three different areas.

Some of the money will be used for more professional development for the district’s kindergarten through third-grade teachers.

Another chunk of the money will be used to develop a summer reading program for struggling readers. Kate Orozco, the district’s director of elementary education, said summer is where most students “dip” in their reading development.

The rest of the money will go directly to each of the elementary schools. Each school can decide what is best for their students; whether it’s using online reading software, adding books to classroom libraries or staffing extra paraprofessionals to help with reading.

“Increased time in schools and with teachers and peers accelerates learning and development,” Orozco said. “With this, we’re able to customize the programming for each child.”

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