INDIANAPOLIS — New data from the Indiana Department of Education shows children are still trying to recover after losing ground to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Indiana Department of Education released results from the 2021-2022 Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination (IREAD-3) assessment. This is an assessment that third graders take to measure foundational reading skills.

“We know that students first learn to read, and then they read to learn,” said Dr. Katie Jenner, Indiana Secretary of Education. “Data shows a direct link between reading by the end of third grade and future learning.”

Statewide results show that 81.6% of Indiana’s third-grade students demonstrated proficient reading skills on the assessment. While this is an improvement from the 2020-2021 assessment, it is still 5.7 percentage points below pre-pandemic proficiency rates.

The department says while some student populations experienced a significant improvement, others will need renewed support to become strong readers.

“As many students continue to recover from the academic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, specific student populations — including our low income, Black, Hispanic, special education, and English learner students — had persistent learning gaps even prior to the pandemic,” said Dr. Jenner. “That’s why it’s so important that educators, families, and communities continue to come together to lead innovative, intentional efforts to make sure all students are able to read.” 

The data shows that reading proficiency declined overall for third-grade students receiving free or reduced-price meals, special education students, and English learners. Black and Hispanic students experienced an increase in proficiency, but their proficiency rates remain significantly below their grade level peers.

The IDOE is trying to get a feel for how the next group of students is doing. For the first time, schools were able to have their second-grade students participate in the IREAD-3 assessment. Of the students who participated, 62% either passed or were on track to pass in third grade.

The department said innovative efforts must continue to make sure that all students become strong readers. This includes a new instructional coaching program the department launched for kindergarten through second-grade teachers.

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