For the first time, kindergarteners' reading skills were required to be put to the test across the state this fall.
The test is called PALS, which stands for Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening.
Now the results are in.
About 10 percent of Wisconsin kindergarteners tested below the benchmark for their reading skills.
In the Coulee region, nearly every school district scored higher than that state average.
Although several local schools were already testing their kindergarteners' reading skills before PALS was a requirement, school said the data gives them a uniform way to compare their students' progress.
Over at Spence Elementary in La Crosse, kindergartener Lucas Hansen has his priorities straight.
"If you want to be successful in your life, you've got to know how to read,” said Lucas. “It's one of the important jobs that lots of people have to know."
In Melissa Ender's 11 years of instructing kindergarteners, including Lucas, she said there's been a big shift in the expectations for her students' reading abilities.
"It has changed tremendously since the beginning of my teaching career. At the beginning, the students were asked basically to just learn the alphabet and some of the sounds, and there wasn't a real strong push for reading other than just a few sight words. And now that has changed because students are expected to be reading by the end of the school year," said Ender.
The fall results from the PALS reading assessment for kindergarteners show there are a lot of K5 students in the Coulee region who excel at it.
They're tested one-on-one or in small groups on several different skills, like letter sounds, spelling and rhyme awareness.
La Crosse School District Supervisor of Academic Programs and Staff Development Rob Tyvoll said the results help educators tailor their teaching to each student's strengths and weaknesses.
"By drilling down and taking a look at their scores and looking at their gaps in performance, we can decide what we need to do instructionally to help them improve," said Tyvoll.
Ender said the latest scores show most kids are up to the task.
For Lucas, the most difficult thing about reading just might be picking out a favorite book.
"There are lots of different books out there. So it's kind of hard to pick just one," said Lucas.
Kindergarteners are just about to start taking the spring PALS assessment. Getting those results will help educators determine where kids have been making progress and what areas still need work.
The PALS assessment was implemented this fall as part of Gov. Scott Walker's Read to Lead initiative.