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More than half of Indiana second graders take IREAD-3 as reading check

A young child reads a picture book at a table inside a library or classroom.
More than half of Indiana's second graders took the IREAD-3 test used to measure third graders' reading ability.

The IREAD-3 test measures third graders’ reading aptitude and helps determine if they are reading at their grade level. Third graders are not the only ones taking the IREAD-3, however — more than half of Indiana’s second graders are also taking the test.

The 2022-23 school year was the second year schools could opt-in to testing second graders. Almost 46,000 second graders took the IREAD-3 this year. That number is up from just more than 20,000 second graders who tested the year before.

Jason Brooks, the principal at Liberty Park Elementary, said he wasn’t a fan of testing second graders at first because he worried about losing instruction time. He said his opinion changed when he learned the feedback could help struggling students and that second graders who pass the test do not have to take it in third grade.

“Once we saw that clear picture of what that looks like, I was on board,” he said.

Close to half of the second graders who participated last school year passed the IREAD-3. Another 17 percent are on track to pass it this year.

Almost 4 out of 10 second graders who took the IREAD-3 were identified as at-risk of not passing the test this year.

Brooks said he thinks early interventions — like working with the school’s reading interventionist and getting kids more reading practice — helped some of his students who were at risk of not passing the second time they tested last year.

He also saw a drop in the number of English language learning students and students with individualized education plans who received waivers this year. Waivers are issued for some students who fail IREAD-3 in third grade.

“They received those good cause exemptions because they're not passing. We want all of our kids to pass, right?,” he said. “Last year we had one student … just one, that received a good cause exemption. So, we're seeing those numbers decrease as well. Data all around is trending in the right direction for all of our students.”

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Lowell Elementary School Principal Kim Griffin said her school’s two-tier instruction time allows reading interventions with second graders who scored low. Her school plans to use that approach again this year.

Griffin said IREAD-3 scores can show gaps in earlier grades’ reading curricula and help schools redefine how they teach reading. She said Lowell is implementing the science of reading approach that emphasizes phonics in the hopes it will help students.

“The work that we do in kindergarten and first grade and second grade up, that leads up to students having that ability and those skills to be able to pass the IREAD-3,” she said. “And so it also helps us kind of evaluate that reading across those primary grades as well.”

Griffin said passing the IREAD-3 also has benefits for second graders beyond early intervention and potentially not having to take the test again the next year. She said it makes students and their families extremely excited when a second grader passes the IREAD-3.

“You can kind of see it on their faces, just how proud they are and how meaningful that is to them,” Griffin said.

Jason Brooks’ daughter goes to a different elementary school that does not test second graders. He said he wishes it did.

“I would have loved to have her, you know, be a part of that opportunity to test as a second grader, pass or fail,” Brooks said. “At least we would have that data and information to know how we could help as a family, let alone as a school.”

The Indiana Department of Education said second graders are not expected to pass. However, incredibly low scores can help schools identify which students need targeted reading intervention before third grade.

“I would love for IREAD to be not a third-grade conversation,” Brooks said. “It would be great to get the bulk of that done in second grade. And I think, you know, that's the direction that we're headed in.”

Kirsten is our education reporter. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.

Kirsten the Indiana Public Broadcasting education reporter. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.