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Thursday, April 18
The Indiana Daily Student

city politics

Elementary reading skills retention bill advanced by Senate committee

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After an Indiana Senate vote today, Indiana third graders may soon have to repeat third grade if they do not pass reading proficiency assessments. The Indiana General Assembly’s Senate Education and Career Development Committee voted 9-4 along party lines to adopt a committee report for Senate Bill 1 concerning reading skills in schools.  

An amendment to start retention in 2025-26 passed, but amendments to make summer school available earlier and to change reading improvement teacher requirements were denied.. 

The bill will continue to with the appropriations committee. 

If Senate Bill 1 continues through the Senate and passes the House, Indiana schools will be required to hold third grade students back if they do not pass IREAD-3, Indiana’s statewide reading assessment, or qualify for an exception. “Good cause” exceptions may be made if a student has already been retained in third grade for a year, if they have an intellectual disability, if they have been learning English for under less than two years, or if they demonstrate proficiency in math assessments. 

Technically, third grade retention has been a part of Indiana policy since 2012. However, schools often “socially promote” students to fourth grade, even if they have not proven reading proficiency or received a good cause exception. 

Schools would also have to administer IREAD or a similar state-level assessment to second graders. The goal is to find out which students need support;, and students who pass the test in second grade will not have to take the test again. The bill would also provide funding for summer school programs to help remediate students’ literacy skills. 

Improving literacy is a major goal for both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, and both sides have listed third grade reading skills as an agenda priority. 

Indiana’s literacy rates have been in decline for a decade, and the number of students unable to read by the end of third grade has doubled since 2012, according to the Indiana Department of Education 

At the same time, retention rates have also decreased. In 2023, 7,778 students did not pass IREAD-3 and did not receive an exemption, meaning they should not have advanced to fourth grade, according to newly available state data. Only 410 students were retained. 7,368 students who did not prove reading proficiency advanced anyways — almost 95%. 

Last year, Indiana passed a law changing the reading curriculum to align with the “science of reading,” or a method of teaching reading based on phonetic awareness. Some Democratic lawmakers oppose Senate Bill 1, as they want to wait and provideallow schools time to see if this change produces results, promoting “non-punitive interventions.” Teachers will not be fully trained in the new science of reading curriculum until 2025-26, according to Senator Andrea Hunley in Wednesday’s committee meeting. 

A “sister bill” concerning literacy, Senate Bill 6, was also read Wednesday. This bill requires the Department of Education to identify students in fourth to eighth grade who did not pass reading evaluations and are “at risk” of not passing literacy assessments, and to develop support guidance for these students. 

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