Indiana News

Indiana governor announces record school literacy investment

ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) — More than 600 elementary schools could gain coaches to train teachers in new literacy methods under a program announced Thursday morning.

Eastside Elementary School in Anderson is one of 54 elementary schools in the state that employ coaches trained in concepts known as the Science of Reading. Karen Griner, Eastside’s new literacy instructional coach and a teacher of 23 years with Anderson schools, said the program uses brain science to tailor reading lessons to how children learn to recognize words.

“For example, phonemic awareness. That is where our students are needing to isolate and understand the smallest unit of sound, and we’re finding that some students were pushed on from that basis of phonemic awareness and it didn’t necessarily connect to what they were reading,” she said.

Indiana’s third grade reading proficiency scores have slid for a decade, dropping from a peak of 91.4 percent during the 2012-2013 school year to 81.6 percent last year. In a speech at Eastside, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the state would put $111 million toward Science of Reading programs. The Lilly Endowment will foot most of the bill, providing a $60 million grant to the Indiana Department of Education to pay for the coaches and training courses for teachers. Another $25 million will help cover the cost of incorporating Science of Reading training into undergraduate teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities. The remaining $26 million will come out of the state’s wallet.

Holcomb said the money would cover literacy instructional coaches at more than 600 elementary schools through the year 2027. He said the state will continue to track its reading proficiency scores during that time.

“We’ll be very transparent about that and continue to fund what works. This is a program that we know works. We’ve seen in other areas it works,” Holcomb said. “And we’ve got some ground to make up and not a lot of time to get there.”

Griner said the additional funding will be a major help for training coaches like her. She said funding for her position currently comes from federal COVID-19 relief, so this provides a more stable near-term source. Griner and her colleagues will work with teachers to better adapt reading lessons to children’s developmental needs.

“We’re valuing teachers, we’re valuing the things that they’re doing in their classrooms, we’re supporting them in the efforts that they’re already doing as well as giving them the time and resources, professional development, to grow and get better,” she said.

About 30 states currently require all teachers to be trained in Science of Reading concepts. Asked whether he would ask lawmakers to add Indiana to that list, Holcomb said he would contemplate it.