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Bill to address reading literacy passes the senate

Senate bill 1 would hold kids back who don’t pass IREAD in third grade would be held back.
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Posted at 10:25 AM, Feb 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-13 18:17:17-05

INDIANAPOLIS – Reading literacy in a problem in Indiana. Recent data shows that consistently one in five students can’t read effectively by the end of third grade.

The issue is what some are calling a crisis, making it a priority for the governor and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Senate Bill 1 aims to address the issue.

"To send these kids on without the ability to read sets them up to struggle throughout the rest of their education and very often the rest of their life,” author Sen. Linda Rogers (R-Granger) said.

The bill would do the following:

  • It requires that every Indiana school has a plan for kindergarten through eighth grade reading instruction that follows the science of reading.
  • The department of education will inform parents of children in kindergarten of the planned reading program and limited retention policy.
  • Schools will also work with students in kindergarten to through second grade to make sure they are on track to be proficient in reading by third grade.
  • All student who are not on track must be given extra support through reading remediation
  • School will be required to give the IREAD test at the end of second grade. Currently 60 percent of school are already doing this, and 2/3 of the students that take the test in second grade are passing.
  • Students that pass in second grade won’t need to take the test anymore
  • Those that don’t pass will be offered summer school and will get remediation support for their entire third grade year before taking I Read again.
  • If a student doesn’t attend summer school at least 90 percent of the time they shall participate in and individualized reading plan aligned with the science of reading.
  • Those students that still need to pass I Read will take the test in the spring of their 3rd grade year and again after summer school if necessary.
  • If a student still doesn’t pass, IREAD Indiana will have a limited retention policy preventing these students from passing to 4th grade.

The retention policy doesn’t apply to special needs to students’, certain English language learners and students who have already been held back once in third grade or twice in K-12.
Also, if a student can pass the state math assessment but not, IIREAD the state will let them progress the fourth grade but require them to get remedial reading support just like all the other exceptions.

However, some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are worried that a mandatory retention policy could have negative impacts on students.

Senator Andrea Hunley who has an extensive background in education feels there isn’t enough data to prove that retaining students actually works. She is also concerned that there may not be enough teaching staff to meet the demand that might be needed for summer school.

"This is not individualized by any stretch of the imagination and it's concerning,” Sen. Andrea Hunley a Democrat representing Indianapolis said.

Senator Eric Bassler a Republican representing Washington shared a personal story about why he doesn’t the portion of the bill that would retain students. On the senate floor he shared how he couldn’t read until he was in 5th grade. He credits his teacher for helping him get caught up. He is concerned that holding kids back could impact them negatively due to the social stigma that follows.

"The thing that gives me pause is does it have a stigma on young people that we can address in some other way,” Bassler said.

Senate Bill one passed out of the Senate with a vote of 36-13. It now heads to the house for consideration.