Arleigh Rodgers
Indiana statehouse and education reporter
arleighrodgersarodgers@ap.org

Tests show Indiana 3rd graders below normal reading levels

August 10, 2022 GMT
In this image taken from video provided by the Indiana Board of Education, Lynn Schemel, director of assessment at the Indiana Department of Education, presents new standardized test scores to Indiana Board of Education members Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, at a board meeting in Indianapolis. Those scores show a modest increase in third-grade reading scores, which still remain well below pre-pandemic levels. (Indiana Board of Education via AP)
In this image taken from video provided by the Indiana Board of Education, Lynn Schemel, director of assessment at the Indiana Department of Education, presents new standardized test scores to Indiana Board of Education members Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, at a board meeting in Indianapolis. Those scores show a modest increase in third-grade reading scores, which still remain well below pre-pandemic levels. (Indiana Board of Education via AP)
In this image taken from video provided by the Indiana Board of Education, Lynn Schemel, director of assessment at the Indiana Department of Education, presents new standardized test scores to Indiana Board of Education members Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, at a board meeting in Indianapolis. Those scores show a modest increase in third-grade reading scores, which still remain well below pre-pandemic levels. (Indiana Board of Education via AP)
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In this image taken from video provided by the Indiana Board of Education, Lynn Schemel, director of assessment at the Indiana Department of Education, presents new standardized test scores to Indiana Board of Education members Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, at a board meeting in Indianapolis. Those scores show a modest increase in third-grade reading scores, which still remain well below pre-pandemic levels. (Indiana Board of Education via AP)
1 of 3
In this image taken from video provided by the Indiana Board of Education, Lynn Schemel, director of assessment at the Indiana Department of Education, presents new standardized test scores to Indiana Board of Education members Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, at a board meeting in Indianapolis. Those scores show a modest increase in third-grade reading scores, which still remain well below pre-pandemic levels. (Indiana Board of Education via AP)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — New standardized test results released Wednesday show reading levels of Indiana’s younger students have improved just slightly but still remain below results from before the pandemic.

Nearly one in five students “have not mastered foundational reading skills by the end of third grade,” according to data from IREAD, an Indiana Department of Education reading assessment given to third graders.

Results from 2021-2022 tests show about an 82% pass rate, with significant disparities among students of color. White students achieved above-average pass rates at about 87%, while around 64% of Black students had proficient reading skills.

That data was presented Wednesday at an Indiana Board of Education meeting by Lynn Schemel, director of assessment at the state Department of Education, who said those who didn’t pass included more than 14,000 Indiana students.

“Students who are poor readers at the end of third grade are likely to remain poor readers throughout their life,” Schemel said. “They even are less likely to graduate on time or may never receive their high school diploma.”

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This year’s results also remain almost six percentage points under pre-pandemic rates from the 2018-2019 school year, the most recently available data set since the coronavirus pandemic started in 2020. Indiana schools did not give standardized tests in 2019-2020 due to the pandemic.

The data is another indication that students in Indiana have not quite cleared the hurdles of pandemic learning losses, and those across all grade levels in the U.S. struggle to succeed after navigating transitions to online learning and adapting to current teacher shortages.

The percentage of Indiana students with adequate reading skills remained largely the same overall compared with last year, with just a 0.4 percentage-point increase, though all groups except white students saw minor percentage-point increases in last year’s pass rates.

Board member Pat Mapes, who is also the superintendent of Perry Township Schools in Indianapolis, said that about 45% of his students who took IREAD were new to Perry Township schools. Many of those students were from low-income families or special education students.

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Just about 53% of special education students had passing reading proficiency this year, down from about 61% in the pre-pandemic 2018-2019 school year.

Mapes requested future data on standardized tests show the percentage of transient students.

“It’s awful hard to increase literacy skills when they go from one corporation to another corporation or one state to another state,” Mapes said. “We’re trying to grow them, but sometimes the frustration for our teachers is they don’t get to see those results, as the kids who they’re really making a gain with, all of a sudden, they leave.”

Students in the state displayed small improvements in their English and math proficiency scores in July as well. Those standardized test results for third through eighth grade also indicated a tentative bright spot following pandemic-disrupted learning.

“We know that students first learn to read, and then they read to learn,” Indiana secretary of education Katie Jenner said in a Wednesday news release. “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.”

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Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers