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North Idaho students average higher than state on Idaho Reading Indicator

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North Idaho students average higher than state on Idaho Reading Indicator



The majority of Idaho’s kindergarten-through-third graders hit the right metrics and many showed improvements in their reading abilities after taking Idaho’s early literacy test this spring.

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Data from the Spring 2024 Idaho Reading Indicator shows score increases over Spring 2023 for kindergartners, first graders and third graders while Idaho second graders maintained their proficiency rates, the Idaho Department of Education reported in a Tuesday news release.

Each spring and fall, Idaho young students take the IRI as required by Idaho Code 33-1806. The assessment allows Idaho educators to better understand the needs of early learners in phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Overall, North Idaho’s students fared better than their counterparts across the state this spring.

In the Coeur d’Alene School District, the Spring 2024 IRI was taken by 2,704 students: 2,050 students, or 75.8%, tested at grade level; 373 students, or 13.8%, were near grade level; and 281 students, or 10.4%, tested below grade level, according to the composite scores presented by the Idaho State Department of Education.

Of the 1,833 Post Falls School District kindergarten-through-third graders who took the IRI, composite scores showed 1,450 (79.1%) tested at grade level, 212 (11.6%) were near grade level and 171 (9.3%) tested below grade level.

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The Lakeland Joint School District’s composite scores showed that 1,232 students took the IRI: 925, or 75.1%, were at grade level; 176 students, or 14.3%, were near grade level, and 131 students, or 10.6%, were below grade level.

In the Kootenai School District, 61 students participated. Of those, 42 (68.9%) tested at grade level, 8 (13.1%) were near grade level and 11 (18%) tested below grade level, according to the IRI’s composite scores.

In spring 2023, 91,437 K-3 Idaho students participated in the IRI. Of those, 65.66% were at grade level, 17.65% were near grade level and 16.69% were below grade level. This spring, 89,446 students participated and of those, 66.5% tested at grade level, 16.8% were near grade level and 16.7% were below grade level.

“Though gains in the spring-to-spring IRI numbers are modest for kindergartners, first and third graders, data suggests that an increased emphasis on effective instruction in early literacy, including a focus on teaching the science of reading, is showing a return on investment,” Chief Deputy Superintendent Ryan Cantrell said in the news release. “I’m pleased to see these results from this assessment cycle.”

Statewide highlights from the spring-to-spring IRI data include:

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• One percentage point increase for kindergartners reading at grade level, up to 66% from 65% in 2023
• Two percentage point increase for first graders reading at grade level, from 62% proficient in 2023 to 64% in 2024
• One percentage point increase for third graders reading at grade level, up to 67% in 2024 from 66% in 2023
• All grade levels held steady on the number of students reading below grade level

“Ensuring our students leave third grade prepared for ‘reading to learn’ is absolutely essential,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield said in the news release. “We can expect to see steady improvements that our policy goals, like developing growth models that target our lowest performing readers, offering optional full-day kindergarten and emphasizing that our colleges prepare our educators to teach phonics were meant to bring. As these policies are further implemented, district and statewide, we expect to see continued growth.”

    Critchfield
 
 



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Idaho

Texas Fire Near Kendrick Remains at 1,575 Acres, is 20% Contained

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Texas Fire Near Kendrick Remains at 1,575 Acres, is 20% Contained


KENDRICK – Crews continue to battle the Texas Fire, located east of Kendrick on the Latah/Nez Perce County line.

According to a Sunday morning update from officials, the fire size is estimated at 1,575 acres and is 20% contained.  The fire area grew by only 32 acres between Thursday and Saturday.  No growth was reported between Saturday morning and Sunday morning.

On Saturday morning, all evacuation orders were lifted and all roads were reopened in the region.

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The last update from the Idaho Department of Lands regarding damage to structures said that the number of buildings lost to the fire included 4 primary residences and 6 outbuildings.








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Officials say firefighters made good progress on Saturday, further securing a control line around the fire. Crews and equipment worked from the fire’s edge further into the interior, applying water with engines, portable water bags with hand pumps, and installing hose and sprinkler systems to extinguish any remaining heat. Helicopters assisted firefighters on the ground with bucket drops to cool down areas of hot brush fuels to allow them to safely engage in mop-up efforts.

Officials say fire activity is expected to remain minimal on Sunday, with creeping and smoldering and little to no open flames. Firefighters continue to search out and extinguish remaining heat and smokes, focusing on 100 feet within the fire perimeter. Due to increased temperatures expected on Sunday, firefighters will look for areas of heat during cooler parts of the day and monitor for any noticeable fire activity later in the day, when temperatures are at their highest.







Texas Fire

Photo: Sage Nelson

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On Wednesday morning, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced authorization of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Texas Fire.

The state of Idaho’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant was approved by FEMA Region 10 Administrator Willie G. Nunn on Tuesday night. “He determined that the Texas Fire threatened to cause such destruction as would constitute a major disaster,” says a FEMA press release. This is the first grant approved in 2024 to help fight Idaho wildfires.







Texas Fire Perimeter Map as of 7/19/24

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Texas Fire map as of 7/19/24.  Source: Idaho Dept. of Lands


At the time of the state’s request, officials said the wildfire threatened homes in and around Kendrick. The fire was also threatening several cell towers, radio towers, private transmission lines, and agricultural assets in the area.

Idaho Department of Lands firefighters began an aggressive attack of the wildfire on Monday in the Potlatch River Canyon near the junction of Texas Ridge Road and Cedar Ridge Road. Texas Ridge and East Road were closed to the public on Monday evening.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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'Hidden crisis': North Idaho needs foster parents

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'Hidden crisis': North Idaho needs foster parents



COEUR d’ALENE — When Tali Nichols was a 21-year-old newlywed, she didn’t plan to have children for a few years, maybe not until after she finished her degree in elementary education. 

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Then she and her husband, Morgan, got a call that changed their lives.

A family member had lost custody of her baby, who was just six days old. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare was looking for kinship caregivers — relatives or close family friends who could care for the baby. 

“We had 24 hours to decide if we would take in a newborn baby,” Nichols recalled. 

They’ve raised the boy ever since. Two and a half years after he first came into their home, they adopted him. The 8-year-old boy has been joined by two biological siblings, aged 7 and 4, as well as many foster siblings over the years. 

“We’ve used this as an opportunity to show the love of God to others and what it means to be a family,” she said. 

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The Nichols are among just 219 foster families in the five northern counties. There are about 1,500 foster children in Idaho at any given moment. The Idaho Department of Welfare needs to recruit more foster parents like the Nichols, with a goal of doubling the rate of qualified foster families in Idaho. 

In the near-decade since the Nichols began fostering, they’ve cared for 19 different children, ranging in age from newborns to older teens. Many of the children stayed with the Nichols only briefly, while relatives got licensed to provide kinship care. Others stayed for longer. 

“Foster care is this hidden crisis,” said Mishaela “Shae” Mouchette, Region 1 recruitment coordinator for Fostering Idaho. “People don’t know how many children are in foster care at their child’s school or in their church. They just don’t see it.” 

In North Idaho, the number of foster children is usually about equal to the number of foster homes, but most foster parents prefer to care for children under the age of 12. Only about 10% of foster parents are open to caring for teens, according to IDHW. 

“People are scared of teens,” Mouchette said. “Our goal is to show people that these are just kids. All they need is some love and some stability. They’re not to be feared.” 

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When there are no foster homes available for teens, they must live in group homes. Mouchette said such settings can be damaging for teens who have already experienced trauma and instability. 

“It’s no way to live,” she said. “It doesn’t come close to being in a foster home and having one-on-one people there to love and care for you.” 

In addition to her role at Fostering Idaho, Mouchette is a foster mom. She and her husband became licensed in 2020. Their first long-term placement was a pair of siblings, a 4-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy, whom they fostered for two years and ultimately adopted. They’ve also welcomed a biological son and will soon continue fostering. 

Mouchette emphasized that her family’s adoption experience is not typical and, in some ways, not ideal. The No. 1 goal of foster care is to reunite children with their biological parents or, barring that, with other biological relatives. 

About 65% of Idaho children in foster care are eventually reunited with their parents, Mouchette said. Most other children are permanently placed in the care of relatives, whether through guardianship or adoption.   

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“It is a win every time a child is reunified with family,” she said.   

Many people become foster parents for the same reason as the Nichols did: to care for a specific child, typically that of a relative or a close friend, in an emergency. Of 219 foster families in North Idaho, 92 are providing kinship care for a specific child. 

“They can’t be called for an emergency placement,” Mouchette said. 

That’s why it’s important to increase the number of foster parents in Idaho. 

“Anybody who feels they have the capacity in their heart and their home, that’s who we’re looking for,” said Monty Prow, deputy director of youth and family services for IDHW. “We can work with you to get the rest of the way there. If a family’s heart is pulling them in this direction, the rest is detail. We can work that out.” 

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Mouchette said some people mistakenly think they’re unsuitable for fostering because they’re unmarried, don’t own a home or don’t fit into another preconceived idea about what foster parents should be. But it takes all kinds. 

Foster parents can be single, married or divorced. They can live in apartments. They can be parents or have no parenting experience. They can be part of the LGBTQ+ community. They can come from any culture or religious faith. In fact, Mouchette said, foster parents from different backgrounds are needed because foster children come from diverse backgrounds, too. 

“They need people who will accept them for who they are,” Mouchette said. 

Social support and other resources are available for foster parents in Idaho. In addition to frequent group events where foster parents can meet and build community, each Region 1 foster parent has a mentor they can turn to when they need advice or support. 

“That is a huge support that other states don’t have,” Mouchette said. 

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Respite care options are available for foster parents who need a break. Both Nichols and Mouchette have provided respite care for other foster families. 

Foster parents also receive a monthly reimbursement to offset the costs of caring for children. This reimbursement is a flat amount based on the child’s age, beginning at $632 per month for children aged 5 and younger and topping out at $759 per month for children aged 13 to 17. 

Nichols said she and her husband will continue to foster for the foreseeable future. 

“We’ll be there as long as the kids need us,” she said. “It’s hard. You can’t go in with blinders on. You have to be aware of the struggles and be willing to embrace grief. But there is so much joy and so much healing. It’s always more than you expect at the beginning.”  

To learn more about foster care for prospective families, call 211 or 800-926-2588 or visit the foster care page on the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare website

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Burn bans and restrictions in effect across southern Idaho

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Burn bans and restrictions in effect across southern Idaho


As wildfires continue to pop up across Idaho and the U.S., it’s important they everyone be aware of the burn bans and restrictions currently in effect in their area.

Southern Idaho has several burn bans in place as of July, including Ada County, Canyon County, Owyhee County and Payette County. All outdoor burning is prohibited in counties with burn bans.

Several counties, including Elmore and Boise County, have varying burn restrictions. Boise County has an Open Burning Ban in effect, which prohibits any open fires on private lands between July 1 and October 20. This ban doesn’t prohibit campfires in “appropriate structures” at private residences.

According to Idaho Department of Lands, individuals living outside city limits anywhere in Idaho who plan to burn for any reason — including crop residue burning and excluding recreational campfires — from May 10 to October 20, must obtain a fire safety burn permit.

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For the full map of burn bans and restrictions across Idaho, go to deq.idaho.gov.





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