Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

One Week Before IREAD-3, Ritz Takes Aim At Reading Test

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Glenda Ritz at a public event at the headquarters of the Indianapolis Star in December.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz has signaled her desire to revamp the Indiana Department of Education’s policies about teaching literacy, including eventually scrapping the high-stakes reading test the state’s third graders will begin taking next week.

Ritz continued her criticism of the IREAD-3 exam at a public event in Anderson this weekend. Indiana Public Radio’s Stephanie Wiechmann was there:

“If you ask me today for the reading levels of the students of Indiana, I could give you zero information because we don’t collect it. We don’t know the actual level of performance of any student in Indiana with our state test. We just know whether they passed or failed a non-grade-level test,” Ritz said.

Ritz says the statewide skills test also does not show individual student progress for math.  Ritz says she wants less testing in classrooms and targeted the IREAD-3 exam that her predecessor, Tony Bennett, began giving to third-grade students last year.

“Elementary teachers — teachers of reading — they know how to assess reading when they’re working right there with the kids,” Ritz said. “I don’t need to give them a test.”

IREAD-3 supporters say test spurs educators into helping struggling readers before they leave the third grade.

“We know students who do not have these skills by the end of grade 3 rarely catch up to their peers,” Bennett said last May.

Those who supported Bennett’s push for the third grade reading exam say it was about more than retention. As Derek Redelman, who watches education policy for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, told StateImpact last May:

They have been promoting particular curriculum approaches that have evidence backing up their success. They have urged this 90-minute reading block as one of the issues, but not the only one. They have created several diagnostic testing opportunities so that teachers and schools can monitor the progress that their students are making. I think it’s a whole set of approaches.

At the same forum where Ritz spoke this weekend, The Herald Bulletin reports Anderson Community Schools superintendent Felix Chow also criticized policies he says puts too much focus on testing.

“Today’s system is so industrialized, we time it by the clock,” Chow told the Anderson newspaper. “It’s not true education. Not everyone learns the same or at the same rate. I always tell my students, ‘Don’t look for the answer alone, look for the process.’”


  • Jo Blacketor

    WOW – there was no indication a week ago on Friday when I met with her that there was any intentions to change the iRead test… only to expand and offer summer family literacy. It really might be good if the news was covered as these change officially change vs. speculation.

    • kystokes

      Hi Jo,

      It’s probably worth adding she’s looking to replace it with something similar — a test in reading to measure growth, where students take a pre-test of sorts at the beginning of the year, and a post-test at the end of the year. But she does want mandatory retention off the table.

      She brought this up at our community conversation in Indy last week. I’ll pass along video when I find it.

  • BKS

    The problem I see is that we have students in elementary school that struggle with reading and whole language because they are dyslexic. Until the state identifies that dyslexia exists and educate ourselves on how to identify these kids and how to teach these kids these reading tests will only hinder these kids who struggle. I have a son who is dyslexic and is in a private school that has trained teachers who are teachingim whole language in a way he is able to understand. With that being said, here is a little information to share with anyone. In a classroom of 30 students 5 to 6 students will have some degree of dyslexia. Maybe we should turn our focus on finding ways to identify dyslexia in order to reach those students who are struggling with reading and whole language and less time testing, testing, and testing. Some kids are not test takers.

  • ADHDmom

    My son has made incredible progress this year with reading and understanding grammar. We received his results and he did not pass by 9 points. This has had a negative impact on his self esteem and I am afraid that he is going to give up and not try now. He is ashamed and does not want his friends to know. He is scared that he will be made fun of and isolated by his peers. This angers and saddens me. This test does not prove anything!!!

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