Indiana’s literacy crisis

Indiana is neck-deep in a literacy crisis. Just slightly more than one in three Hoosier children (37%) are reading on grade level (down from 41% in 2017) according to NAEP, which is known as the nation’s report card. Student demographic data shows significant disparities along racial and ethnic lines, but the literacy crisis impacts children of all backgrounds. And while COVID has certainly contributed to this problem, many of these significant challenges pre-date the pandemic. 

  • 43% of white students are on reading on grade level. 
  • This number is 17% of for Black students and 24% of Latino students. 
  • The data shows Indiana has made NO progress in closing achievement gaps related to reading in 20 years. 

Beyond this disturbing data is the impact illiteracy has on everyday people and our communities. When young people are not getting the tools needed to become skilled readers, their opportunities to learn and prepare for life success are severely limited. And these limitations have a ripple effect on the health and well-being of our economy and cities and towns across Indiana. It’s a well-known fact that companies consider literacy rates when evaluating where to expand and create new jobs. By one estimate, increasing literacy rates in our nation could add trillions of dollars in annual income growth. If we consider this fact for Indiana alone, we would likely be looking at billions of dollars in earnings for Hoosiers by successfully attacking high illiteracy rates.  

The Commission for Higher Education recently released its annual report highlighting postsecondary attainment in Indiana, and the data was cause for concern. Only 53% of high schoolers are heading to college, which marks a steep decline (12% decrease over the last five years). The state’s goal of having 60% of adults achieve some form of higher education attainment by 2025 is severely off the mark – sitting currently at just 48%. While there are several factors contributing to Indiana’s higher education decline, there is no question that our underlying literacy crisis is feeding this trend.   

Fortunately, there is hope and it comes in the form of science. The Science of Reading (SoR) has given us a clear understanding of how we learn to read and how we should teach children to read.  Thankfully, the Indiana Department of Education just announced a major investment in the science of reading that should mean thousands of elementary educators will get the training and support needed to teach literacy more effectively. Be sure to read the details of this exciting plan here.

Be sure to follow Stand on social media for more details on the science of reading and what specific action steps we can take as a state to turn all Hoosier children into skilled readers.  

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