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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Shackleford: Improving literacy in our community

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Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Lilly Endowment recently announced an unprecedented partnership to spend up to $111 million on a statewide literacy initiative that will train educators how to teach using the “science of reading.”

The “science of reading” is a research-based strategy that integrates instructional practices with efforts focused around phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Decades of child development and brain research emphasize the need for all of these components to be taught to students to ensure they have the reading skills necessary for future academic and life success.

This investment is going to be critical to closing the opportunity gap for students in our community who are not reading on grade level.

If you look at the most recent statewide IREAD scores, which measure third graders’ reading proficiency, just 64.1% of Black students and 69.6% of Latino students passed the assessment.

Compare that to 87.5% of white students who passed. Locally, the overall pass rate for students in Indianapolis Public Schools was 62%.

The statewide announcement is huge, but we also need to lift up local efforts that have been underway over the past year to help our students combat pandemic learning loss when it comes to reading.

Last school year, Indianapolis Public Schools piloted tutoring projects at several of its locations, and the district rolled out its free “tutoring for all” initiative as this school year got started. Beginning in October, students who signed up for tutoring will meet virtually twice weekly for one hour in the afternoons.

Similarly, a microgrant program that directly provides families with funds to spend on tutoring will be coming online in the coming months. Lawmakers created that program earlier this year, and IPS was the first district in the state to commit to matching the state’s $500 per-student investment with an additional $500, ensuring that every IPS student who qualifies for the program will have $1,000 to spend on tutoring services.

Last, but certainly not least, I am heartened to hear the city of Indianapolis is considering a $1 million investment for the Circle City Readers program, which will provide in-person, high-dosage reading tutoring for more than 1,000 Indianapolis students.

I am encouraged by all of this investment in literacy, and I can’t wait for the funding to start flowing to our educators, families and students. Our kids have long deserved this kind of attention and investment in their educational success — especially when it comes to the fundamentals of reading.

State Rep. Robin Shackleford represents Indiana House District 98, is Indiana Black Legislative Caucus chair, POWER Women Caucus vice chair and Public Health Committee ranking minority member. Contact her at H98@iga.in.gov.

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