Aug 17, 2023 - Education

Indiana's reading scores are flat. That's a big problem.

Marion County IREAD-3 pass rates, by school district
Data: Indiana Department of Education; Table: Axios Visuals

Indiana's third-grade reading scores are stagnating.

Driving the news: Results from this past spring's administration of the IREAD-3 exam released Wednesday show that Hoosier third graders have made little progress since the pandemic disrupted education nationwide.

  • Statewide, scores have flatlined over the last three years with 81.9% of third-graders tested passing this year — up from 81.6% in 2022.
  • In 2019, the last administration before the pandemic, 87.3% of students passed. All statewide end-of-year exams, including IREAD-3, were suspended in 2020.

Why it matters: The test measures students' foundational reading skills, and what they'll need to succeed as they progress through school and shift from learning how to read, to reading in order to learn.

Reality check: Indiana's reading proficiency rates were already in decline before the pandemic.

  • "Our highest passing point of the IREAD-3 assessment was a decade ago," Education Secretary Katie Jenner said. "It's key for us to acknowledge … as we urgently have to overcome this."

Zoom in: Of the 11 public Marion County school districts, eight saw an uptick in their reading scores.

  • Perry Township, IPS and Speedway saw declines.
  • Only three districts — Washington and Franklin townships and Speedway — had pass rates above the state average.

The big picture: The results underscore the importance of an ongoing effort to overhaul the way schools teach young children to read, aligning teaching methods and curriculum to what's being called "the science of reading."

  • The state set a goal for 95% of students to be able to read by the end of third grade by 2027.

The bottom line: Jenner said it's urgent that the state makes progress more quickly or else "it will be years and years and thousands and thousands of kids," before they hit that goal.

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