Local IREAD-3 scores show improvement

Aug. 25—ANDERSON — The majority of the area's public school districts saw improvements in their results from the annual Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination (IREAD-3) assessment, a test given to measure foundational reading skills among the state's third graders.

Among Madison County districts, South Madison posted the biggest year-over-year gain, with 94% of its third graders passing the assessment, compared to 86.4% last year.

"This accomplishment is a testament to all the hard work that our students, staff, and community put in every year," said Valerie Steger, principal at Maple Ridge Elementary School, which among the county's individual elementary buildings had the highest pass rate on the assessment, 97.9%

"Every year as a school, we make a conscientious effort to focus on best practices, meet frequently to discuss student progress, and adapt based on the needs of our students. We are proud of all of our students and their continued growth in every grade level."

Across the state, nearly one in five third graders — an estimated 15,000 students, according to the Indiana Department of Education — will need additional support to meet grade-level reading standards, according to a news release. The state's overall pass rate was 81.9%, a slight improvement of 0.3% over results for the 2021-22 school year.

State education leaders said continued improvement will be needed to achieve their stated goal of seeing 95% of students pass IREAD-3 by 2027.

"Today, nearly one in five Indiana students is unable to read by the end of third grade," said Dr. Katie Jenner, Indiana Secretary of Education. "This is a crisis that could have a long-term negative impact on Indiana's economy and negative repercussions throughout our society. We have no time to waste, and together, we must urgently work to improve reading outcomes for Indiana students, including supporting both current and future educators with the knowledge and tools necessary to teach our students to read using evidence-based literacy instruction, rooted in the science of reading."

Among local districts, Elwood Community School Corp. saw the steepest decline in passing rates, dropping to 67.8% this year from 90.3% last year.

"You look at different ages and grade levels and how they were impacted with what happened during COVID," said Elwood Superintendent Troy Friedersdorf. "I think without question every grade level has been impacted by that time where direct instruction was missed."

Administrators at Anderson Community Schools said proficiency rate improvements both districtwide and at five of six elementary schools can be attributed to smaller class sizes, which have helped with more intense reading instruction, and healthy parental support.

"We've really hit on the basics of reading comprehension," said Terasha Webb, principal at Edgewood Elementary School, where the IREAD-3 pass rate rose to 72.2% this year, compared to 50.8% in 2022. "These teachers have encouraged them and enforced what they've already learned. We have a lot of kids who actually grew between second and third grade with the reinforcement of those skills."

ACS also introduced on-site literacy instructional coaches at each of its elementary schools last year. Those coaches are available to help teachers apply instruction from the Science of Reading, a body of research that has been organized into five main focus areas, or pillars: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

Teachers said the coaches, as well as other on-site resources, have been instrumental in preparing soon-to-be-third-graders for the assessment.

"For us, the literacy coaches helped us at the second-grade level," said Donna Allen, a fourth-grade teacher at Edgewood who taught third grade last year. "Some of that moves over to us because we learn about Science of Reading together."

ACS Superintendent Joe Cronk said that while district leaders are encouraged by the overall improvement on IREAD-3, more work remains to be done. Funding for the literacy coaches is provided through a two-year IDOE grant, and district officials are working to secure financial support to continue the program once the grant expires next year.

"These scores speak to our corporation-wide focus on literacy," Cronk said. "Combined with our K-2 literacy coaches, we expect to continue seeing higher IREAD test results in the coming years."

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