Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

State Releases Third Grade Reading Exam Results — Five Things To Know

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A Bloomington third grader takes part in a reading lesson about syllables.

More than 84 percent of Indiana third graders passed a high-stakes test of their reading skills in March, according to data state education officials released today.

But more than 11,700 third graders did not pass the IREAD-3 exam, putting many of them at risk of being held back from fourth grade if they cannot pass a retake of the test this summer.

We’ve posted complete statewide results of the exam to two easily-searchable tables. You can find results for your school or your district.

“We know students who do not have these skills by the end of grade 3 rarely catch up to their peers,” state superintendent Tony Bennett said in a statement releasing the results.

“The IREAD-3 assessment,” the statement continued, “helps educators and parents ensure all children receive the support they need before moving forward with more challenging reading instruction.”

Here are five things to know about the results:

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Tony Bennett announces results of Indiana's IREAD-3 exam in his office at the statehouse Tuesday morning.

“We have to stop lying to children. This involves having hard discussions with children and their parents. Frankly, this is an accountability measure for parents and children.”
—Tony Bennett, state superintendent
  • Socio-economic factors can (but don’t always) lower scores. Schools with a higher percentage of students receiving free or reduced price lunches — a common indicator for a school’s level of poverty — are more likely to have a lower percentage of students passing the IREAD-3. (It’s a familiar trend.) But there are several exceptions to the rule. Among them: Ernie Pyle Elementary in Indianapolis, where nearly all of the students receive free or reduced price lunches. 95 percent of the school’s third graders passed.
  • Charter schools, on average, had lower passage rates than the rest of the state: 71 percent of students in 47 charter schools passed the exam. 84 percent of all Indiana students passed the test.
  • Nobody’s been held back yet. Schools have already informed many of the families of third graders who did not pass of their student’s IREAD-3 results. For some, the intensive remediation work has already begun and will continue into the summer months. Students can retake the exam in June. It’s only after that exam that we’ll know how many students are at serious risk for being retained.
  • The key words to learn now: “good cause exemption.” Though the Indiana Department of Education’s new reading policy says any third grader who cannot pass the IREAD-3 cannot go on to fourth grade, state officials say there are — and will be — exceptions to the rule. Students with “disabilities” or English Language Learners are eligible for “good cause exemptions” from the policy. State officials say those exemptions are broad enough that districts can determine which students truly need retention. That message, however, hasn’t necessarily gotten through to parents. While some district officials have told StateImpact they will do everything they can to give exemptions to every student they can, some parents of students who did not pass say their schools feel the state has tied their hands. But how many exceptions to the rule will there be? We’ll have to wait until the end of summer to see.
  • Florida has been here, done that. Indiana’s third grade reading and retention plan is modeled on a similar policy that’s been on the books in Florida for a decade. In the first year Florida education officials retained students for poor scores, 23 percent of students did not pass necessary testing. Roughly 15 percent of those students were ultimately held back.


  • Parent Power

    Even the testing profession’s own Joint Standards state that children’s learning should not be assessed with only one test. Why, then, is Dr. Bennett/IDOE, forcing retention based on not passing one test? The answer: money. Money for the testing companies to administer and re-administer statewide testing. Many assessment techniques exist for assessing a student’s reading. One test is not appropriate. Parents have a right to be involved in and make a retention decision or not, per Indiana state law, and have a right to guide the education of their children. IDOE’s forced retention is just an IDOE process, not a state law and is unenforceable.

  • Jenny

    In 2011 in Indiana, 33.4 million was spent on testing, and only 3.5 million on remediation. Spending for remediation (excluding graduation exam remediation) appears to have decreased by about 75% from 2008 to 2011, while the amount spent on testing has increased by about 24% over the same time period. Unless there’s widespread public outcry, we can expect these trends to continue…which is good for test developers’ pocketbooks, but bad for our kids’ learning.

    Data source: Legislative Services Agency and State Auditor’s data ( )

  • CB

    I would like to know if ESL and special education students were included in the group being reported on and, if so, what percentage of the 11,700 who didn’t pass were ESL and special ed students.

    • StateImpact Indiana

      Good question (I think it’s safe to say it’s also the key question in this policy). The state hasn’t released that information yet on a statewide scale. We’ll keep you apprised as we get more information!

  • Concerned mom

    My student scored 477 just above the 446 to pass. Should I be concerned about their readiness for 4th grade?

  • Ian Albright

    I was worried about the iread after finding out that passing was a requirement for graduation. Just found out my little girl scored 557. PASSED!

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