Utah third-graders are showing improvement in reading and also rank above their peers nationally for reading on grade level, according to Iowa Reading Test results released Monday by the Utah State Office of Education.

"It's a tribute to the hard work that's going on in the schools," said Judy Park, the office's associate superintendent of data, assessment and accountability.

A new Utah statute requires third-graders to be tested to determine if they are reading on grade level. Iowa tests, already given to third-graders in a variety of subjects in the fall of 2007 were given again in the spring of 2008 in reading.

The spring results showed Utah ranked third in the nation, at the 60th percentile, above the national average 50th percentile. Utah schoolchildren also showed gains across the board in the reading subsets of vocabulary, factual understanding, inference and interpretation, analysis and generalization, and critical understanding.

"Our teachers are helping our kids be more proficient," Park said.

All but one ethnic, racial and socioeconomic subgroup of Utah third-graders showed reading improvement between the fall and spring tests. Only English language learners who were just emergent in English skills showed a decline.

The full Iowa Test report is scheduled to be available today at www.schools.utah.gov.

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