New test scores show Hoosier third graders slightly improved, but reading skills still lacking

New data reveals 81.6% of the state’s 65,000 third graders passed the 2022 IREAD-3 test. 

By: - August 10, 2022 1:52 pm

(From the Indiana Department of Education)

Nearly one in five Hoosier third graders this past spring did not master foundational reading skills, according to new standardized test results released Wednesday.

While Indiana’s younger students have improved, the test results still lag behind pre-pandemic reading fluency. 

New data reveals 81.6% out of the 65,000 third graders at public and private schools in Indiana passed the 2022 Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination, also called the IREAD-3 test. 

That’s less than a 0.5% increase from the last academic year, and 5.7% behind the results from the 2018-2019 school year, which is the last data set available prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indiana schools did not give standardized tests in 2019-2020 due to the pandemic.

The literacy rate is a significant drop from Indiana’s high of 91.4% in 2012-13. 

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

In total, more than 14,000 Hoosier third grade students — more than 18% of those in the state — will need additional support to build their reading skills to meet grade-level reading standards, according to state officials. A student who does not pass the IREAD-3 test typically must receive remediation, or risk being retained in third grade. 

Jenner emphasized that includes low income, Black, Hispanic, special education and English learner students — who had “persistent learning gaps” even prior to the pandemic.

Black and Hispanic students increased pass rates by 2.1% and 1%, respectively, but their overall proficiency rates remain significantly below their grade level peers.

Roughly 64% of Black students and English language learners passed the multiple-choice IREAD exam in 2022 — 10% fewer than in 2019.

White students achieved above-average pass rates at about 87%, according to test scores.

Reading proficiency additionally declined overall for third grade students receiving free or reduced-price meals, as well as those receiving special education.

Schools were also allowed to test second grade students with the IREAD-3 assessment for the first time this spring. Statewide, nearly 400 elementary schools across the state opted in, with more than 20,000 second grade students participating. Of those students who were tested, 62% either passed the assessment or are on track to pass next year.

Lynn Schemel, director of assessment at the Indiana Department of Education, said students who lack foundational reading skills — including a strong vocabulary and basic phonetics — are “even less likely to graduate on time” or may never receive their high school diploma.

“Students who are poor readers at the end of third grade are likely to remain poor readers throughout their life,” she said. 

State education officials said new education initiatives are coming together to help schools across the state make sure that students become strong readers. They pointed to the launch of a new instructional coaching program for kindergarten through second grade teachers that already has 54 schools participating in the program.

The state education department is also sending more than $150 million to schools through a state-funded grant program that intends to help bolster student learning outside of the regular classroom. Separate microgrants to help parents access tutoring for their students will become available this fall.

Jenner said the department will announce another major literacy initiative next week.

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Casey Smith
Casey Smith

A lifelong Hoosier, Casey Smith previously reported on the Indiana Legislature for The Associated Press. Internationally, she has reported on water quality across South America. She holds a master’s degree in investigative reporting and narrative science writing from the University of California/Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. She previously earned degrees in journalism, anthropology and Spanish from Ball State University, where she now serves as an instructor of journalism.