Indiana putting $111M toward raising youth literacy rate

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana will spend more than $100 million on trying to improve children’s reading proficiency, the governor announced Thursday, in a move that comes amid concerns about modest and unequal literacy rates among the state’s young students.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state will implement $111 million in total funding toward this goal, more than half of which is coming from Lilly Endowment, an Indianapolis-based philanthropy that donates to religious, educational and community development causes. It will contribute up to $60 million to the initiative.

“Reading is fundamental to each student’s lifelong opportunities, and it’s foundational to the core of our state’s future,” Holcomb said in a statement. “This immense investment will make an enduring impact on our youngest generation of Hoosiers, empowering them with fundamental skills that they will carry with them throughout their lives.”

Hoping to achieve a 95% pass rate among Indiana students by 2027, the Department of Education said in a statement that the new funding is the state’s “largest-ever” investment in literacy — and a necessary one, as “more Indiana students must read well in order to support their long-term academic success and the success of the state’s future.”

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.

IREAD test results released Aug. 10 show that reading levels of Indiana’s younger students are at about an 82% pass rate overall and are significantly lower among students of color. White students achieved above-average pass rates of roughly 87%, while around 64% of Black students had proficient reading skills.

“In Indiana, too many of our students are concluding third grade without foundational reading skills. Fewer still have the reading skills necessary for long-term academic success,” Education Secretary Katie Jenner said. “As a state, including our schools and community partners, we must lean-in to urgently and intentionally address this challenge.”

This story is by Arleigh Rodgers of The Associated Press/Report for America.