‘We’re full steam ahead’: Lilly, IDOE together invest $111M in elementary literacy

ANDERSON — In an effort to improve elementary literacy in Indiana schools, Lilly Endowment and the Indiana Department of Education are investing $111 million.

On Thursday in front of a room of Anderson elementary students, Governor Eric Holcomb, IDOE and Lilly Endowment announced what leaders said is the “state’s largest-ever financial investment in literacy.”

“Today is putting a ginormous Indiana flag in the ground saying we are committed to this,” Holcomb said.

Federal pandemic relief funds from IDOE plus $60 million from Lilly Endowment will go towards elementary literacy. Another $25 million from Lilly Endowment is reserved for college undergraduate elementary teaching programs.

“This is a program we know that works. We’ve seen in other areas it works and we’ve got some ground to make up and not a lot of time to get there,” Holcomb said.

With the money, the state plans on focusing in four areas:

  1. Support the deployment of instructional coaches to schools throughout Indiana;
  2. Offer stipends to teachers who participate in professional development focused on the Science of Reading;
  3. Provide targeted support for students who need the most help in improving their reading skills; and
  4. Create a literacy center focused on Science of Reading strategies.

The initiative is all centered around the “science of reading.”

“The science of reading is based a lot on how students learn. A lot of brain research and it’s really an increase in phonics, an increase in phonemics awareness.” Indiana Secretary of Education, Dr. Katie Jenner, said.

By 2027, the state is looking to increase IREAD-3 passing rates to 95%. For comparison last school year, just under 82% of Indiana third graders passed the state test.

“Far too few of our third graders read sufficiently to really be able to do well in school later on. It’s critical that we come up with ways that to make sure that they can. It’s just imperative. This is particularly true for children of color and also low-income students,” Carl Robbins, CEO and chairman of Lilly Endowment, said.

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