INDIANAPOLIS — New data was released Wednesday about how well Hoosier third graders are reading.
The Department of Education released the IREAD-3 results for the last school year. They show nearly 1 in 5 students were not reading proficiently by the end of third grade. That's more than 14,000 students.
The statewide results showed 81.6% of third graders did demonstrate proficient reading skills, just a 0.4% increase over the previous school year.
However, the results are nearly 6% below the pre-pandemic levels, which is why some districts are doing all they can to get their students reading help.
A new program just launched in dozens of schools this year puts literacy coaches in classrooms to help teachers improve reading proficiency.
She may not wear a whistle or walk the sidelines, but Katina Augustus is a coach in the classroom for Lawrence Township Schools. Her goal is to raise scores for reading at Brook Park Elementary, coaching up teachers to get the best outcomes for kids.
"I am a cheerleader. I am an advocate of teachers," Augustus said.
Augustus is part of a pilot program from the Indiana Department of Education that's putting literacy coaches in 54 schools across the state for kindergarten through second grades.
She's an expert in the science of reading -- how the brain learns to read. She's now teaching teachers how to get peak performance from their students, with proven strategies for success.
Right now, Augustus is testing students, getting a baseline on their reading levels. Then she and the teachers draw up a game plan for improvement, often using small groups for instruction, working to up the kids' reading scores.
She said they'll practice back to basics if necessary: making sure each of the five pillars of reading are mastered: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
"We sit down and we plan and we co-teach together and we model together and we do a lot of feedback and then we go back to our data and see how successful we were," Augustus explained. "It gives me a blueprint. It gives me somewhere to start and I know exactly how to coach our teachers and know exactly where we need to hone in on certain skills."
Like many districts, the latest IREAD-3 results in Lawrence Township show signs of struggle.
Only 63.9% of third graders passed reading proficiency last year.
But those numbers only get Augustus fired up.
After all, who doesn't love an underdog story?
"I know it's low sometimes, but there's nowhere to go but up and so we're excited about that," Augustus said. "I love sports and I love the underdog so yeah, count us in. Our overall goal of the game, really, are our students. We want them to win."
The IDOE literacy coach model is a two-year pilot program.