State, Lilly Endowment invest $111 million in early literacy development

ANDERSON – The Indiana Department of Education and the Lilly Endowment will join forces to invest up to $111 million to fund early literacy development, the largest such investment in state history.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the plan, which will increase support for “science of reading” focused instruction, during an event Thursday morning at Eastside Elementary School in Anderson.

The announcement comes a week after recent standardized test results showed nearly one in five Hoosier third graders had not mastered fundamental reading skills.

In Allen County, those numbers ranged by district as Southwest and Northwest Allen County Schools had pass rates near 90% on the Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination (IREAD-3) test, above the state average of 81.6%, while East Allen County Schools and Fort Wayne Community Schools had pass rates of 77% and 70%, respectively.

The past few years, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted education in Indiana and across the United States, were a “challenging, unprecedented time,” Holcomb said. The state’s IREAD-3 numbers have declined significantly during that time, an exacerbation of a trend dating back nearly a decade.

The statewide pass rate reached its high water mark during the 2012-13 school year at 91.4%, Indiana Secretary of Education Dr. Katie Jenner said.

The state’s goal now is to surpass that number and have 95% of students pass IREAD-3 by 2027.

“It couldn’t be a more timely response to the last couple years,” Holcomb said. “I’m just so exhilarated … to see from kindergarten to fourth grade the impact this is going to have over just the next five years.”

Clay Robbins, chairman and CEO of the Lilly Endowment, said “far too few Indiana third graders have the necessary reading skills.”

The endowment has approved a grant of up to $60 million, funding that will be supplemented by approximately $26 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II funds from the Indiana Department of Education

The money will support “science of reading” teaching strategies, provide targeted support for students who need help with reading skills, offer stipends to teachers for professional development and support sending “instructional coaches” to schools.

Currently, 54 schools are piloting science of reading-focused coaching this fall organized by the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis, and the state expects that program to expand to reach 60% of elementary schools by the end of the 2025-26 school year.

As for stipends, the Department of Education will provide up to $1,200 per teacher for educators who participate in science of reading-focused training.

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