New law targets third grade reading proficiency

NOW: New law targets third grade reading proficiency

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed a new law Monday requiring third graders to pass their IREAD exams or face getting held back.

The new law is Senate Bill One, meaning it was a top priority for Senate Republicans, the governor, and the Department of Education. Last year, more than seven thousand students moved on to fourth grade without passing their IREAD exams. State Senator Linda Rogers (D-Granger), who represents northeastern St. Joseph County, was an author of the bill, which she titled, "Every Child Learns to Read."

"The old saying, K through three, you learn to read. And then in fourth grade and on, you read to learn," Rogers said. "So, everyone needs to have that foundational ability to be able to read."

The new law takes effect July 1.

All second graders will be mandated to take the IREAD exams, where before it was optional for second graders. Students who pass do not have to take them again. Students who do not pass will receive interventions before taking the exam again in third grade.

Those interventions include summer school, Rogers said. If a student does not pass again, they will not be able to move on to fourth grade.

The law requires teachers to use "Science of Reading" curricula, which is already employed in many school districts, like South Bend.

On Tuesday, third graders took their IREAD exams, with results coming as early as this week.

South Bend Superintendent Todd Cummings said he goes student-by-student with principals in the district to make sure every struggling student has some kind of intervention.

"I meet with principals and we look at every intervention our students have," he said. "And we're seeing students that are making astronomical gains so, we have our fingers crossed, our teachers and principals have worked so hard the past two years, our fingers are crossed that our scores are going to be really dramatic this week."

But ultimately, Cummings said, literacy is a community-wide issue.

"The science of reading hasn't changed in 20 years," he said. We know everything we need to know about reading. A caring adult asking you what you're reading, time to read alone, and someone reading out loud to you. So whether it's giving kindergarteners their first library card or asking parents to read to your student-- this is a community issue."

Critics of the new law say holding kids back isn't the answer, but rather a more individualized approach to reading.

Read the legislation here.

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