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Indiana Department of Education previews new tool to measure reading progress

Students read at their desks in a classroom.
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Reading scores in Indiana have been declining since before the pandemic.

The Indiana Department of Education says too many third graders who fail a statewide reading test are advancing to fourth grade. The IDOE is working on a new data visualization tool that shows student progress on key reading skills.

Nearly one in five third graders in Indiana lack key literacy skills, and state education officials say average scores for the state’s reading test — the IREAD-3 — are declining.

Data from the IDOE shows that over the past few years, more than 96 percent of third graders who failed IREAD-3 advanced to fourth grade.

Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said not passing IREAD-3 has a profound impact on students’ education.

"If a child moves forward not passing IREAD-3, they will likely never pass I-LEARN," she said.

Some students who fail the test receive a “good cause exemption” if they have disabilities, are English language learners, or receive targeted reading interventions. Data from the IDOE shows the number of students who do not receive exemptions after failing the test has grown disproportionately compared to the number of students who do receive exemptions.

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The IDOE has become more strategic with using exemptions to better monitor student progress. The number of students who moved on to fourth grade after failing the IREAD-3, however, increased significantly.

"We know from our data what happens when children cannot read by the end of third grade and they move forward," Jenner said. "That’s broken right now and we have to figure out, as a state, how to fix that."

The IDOE previewed a tool officials say will help educators and lawmakers track changes as the state works to boost reading scores. It includes a map that shows IREAD-3 trends and tracks how many students progress to fourth grade after failing the test.

Jenner said the tool will soon be available to educators and parents.

Kirsten is our education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.

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Kirsten the Indiana Public Broadcasting education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.