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3/24/2012 6:56:00 AM
EDITORIAL: State may have gone too far with standardized reading test

Herald Bulletin

Third-graders and their parents can relax. The new testing of reading skills, known as the Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination (known better as IREAD-3) is over for this year.

That is, all can relax until April when the results come in. Failing the test could lead to a student being held back.

The goal of this standardized test is admirable, moving schools away from social promotion into a standards-based process.

For more than a decade, even longer, many Hoosier school districts set standards where students were to be able to read at their grade level. Some districts would, for example, give students three years to master those skills; others established mentor or reading programs to assist those who struggled with reading. Districts had to individually seek out and implement programs for their schools.

IREAD helps place Indiana schools on a standardized path with a third-grade testing test. Third grade was selected because the state Department of Education believes that age is a turning point between “learning to read” and “reading to learn.” Topics become more complex beginning in the fourth grade and Hoosier students need to develop those skills for future success in school and the workforce.

But the state may have gone too far in implementing a policy where students who fail the test will be held back in the third grade.

There are “good cause” exemptions, including students with disabilities or those who have been previously retained twice prior to the fourth grade.

The impact of early retention often leads to a student dropping out of school. This should never be an outcome of testing.

The state is recommending that schools assist students who do not pass IREAD-3 by implementing strategies based on student need, require at least 90 minutes of uninterrupted reading each day and provide daily targeted interventions. Those programs can’t always be offered by a child’s classroom teacher. Aides are often sought to assist and that costs additional funding.

Many districts where grade-level reading standards are in place have proven what has long been known: students learn to read at varying rates.

The goals of IREAD-3 are admirable and a major shift from the once-prevalent social promotion from grade to grade. But no test should be the final assessment of a student’s lifelong learning process.

Related Stories:
• Third-graders worried upcoming IREAD-3 exam could hold them back

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