INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers want to focus on improving students’ reading skills this session.
Last year, Indiana’s IREAD scores revealed roughly one in five Hoosier third graders can’t read proficiently.
Indiana Education Secretary Katie Jenner wants to turn things around.
“We set a goal for 95% of all children in Indiana to be reading by the end of third grade by the year 2027,” Jenner said.
Jenner said Tuesday she is calling on state lawmakers to invest $10 million this session toward improving student literacy.
“[The money would go for] instructional coaches for our schools, additional resources for our teachers,” Jenner said.
That’s on top of the more than $100 million contribution from the Lilly Endowment and federal COVID relief funds announced last summer, which has been used to help more Indiana schools transition to the “science of reading” model.
It emphasizes phonics, or how words sound, rather than relying on other words or pictures for context.
“In the science of reading, you might be teaching students that the CH combination of letters makes the sound ch,” explained Robin LeClaire, student services director for Greenfield Central Community Schools.
Greenfield schools has used the science of reading method the past two years, and teachers have seen a positive impact, LeClaire said.
It has also helped the district’s students with dyslexia.
“They don’t dread sitting down with the teacher in a small group or one-on-one to read because they have that confidence,” said Joe Risch, behavior support coordinator for Greenfield Central Community Schools.
Some lawmakers believe more districts should embrace the science of reading method. State Sen. Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis) said he plans to introduce a bill to make it mandatory in all schools.
“We all know that if a child’s not reading by third grade, that child is not on a good trajectory in their life,” Freeman said.
State Sen. Andrea Hunley (D-Indianapolis), a former school principal, said she agrees the science of reading model is effective. But she wants to make sure adequate state funding is included before deciding to support such a bill, she added.
“Training is expensive,” she said. “Ensuring that our teachers have the tools and the resources that they need in their classrooms is expensive.”
Freeman said he expects state funding to be attached to his proposal, but a potential cost is still being worked out.