ANDERSON, Ind. — The Indiana Department of Education and the Lilly Endowment have announced a more than $100 million investment to get more Hoosier kids up to speed in reading.
This comes as the state’s standardized test scores remain below pre-pandemic levels. Earlier this month, the state released this year’s IREAD results, which show nearly one in five Hoosier third graders cannot read proficiently.
“Presently, we have one in five students who are leaving third grade who are not able to read,” Indiana Education Secretary Katie Jenner said during Wednesday’s announcement at an Anderson elementary school.
Jenner’s goal is to have 95% of Indiana’s third graders reading proficiently by 2027.
“The highest we’ve ever been as a state was in 2012, 2013, when we were at 91.4%,” Jenner said. “We have since had a 10-year decline.”
Jenner said she believes the state can turn that around, thanks in part to a $111 million investment from the Lilly endowment and Indiana’s federal COVID relief funds. Jenner called it Indiana’s “largest financial investment in making sure that all of our children can read.”
That includes $85 million total from the Lilly Endowment, according to the Indiana Department of Education. Of that funding, $60 million will go to IDOE, and $25 million will be sent to Indiana colleges and universities to enhance their elementary education programs.
IDOE is also allocating $26 million of its federal COVID-19 relief funds toward the effort.
The funding will allow more Hoosier schools to implement the “science of reading” learning model, Jenner said, which focuses on how letters and words sound, understanding vocabulary and building comprehension skills.
The funding will go toward instructional coaches and stipends for teachers as well as extra help for students, she added.
“This is a program that we know works,” said Gov. Eric Holcomb. “We’ve seen in other areas it works.”
The state will track students’ progress under this program, Holcomb said.
Holcomb said he also wants to see Indiana lawmakers consider increased state funding for schools.
“As I put together my agenda, which we’re doing now to put forth come this January and what will end up being my last budget session, you can bet on additional funding to K-12,” Holcomb said.
Meanwhile, some parents say they’re excited about the investment, especially after the setbacks caused by COVID-19.
“I read to younger children once a week at elementary schools,” said Rachel Burke, Indiana PTA president. “And they have really had a problem.”