Home News Teacher literacy mandate eased, exam still required

Teacher literacy mandate eased, exam still required

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The state has relaxed some guidelines on a new literacy training requirement after a teacher outcry against the new state mandate.

The law, which goes into effect July 1, calls for pre-K to grade 6 and special education teachers to be trained in the science of reading to renew their state license.

Indiana reading exam results last year showed nearly one in five students is unable to read by the end of third grade. The results raised alarm bells among lawmakers who also called for students to repeat third grade if they fail the state’s reading proficiency test.

Teachers expressed concern over the 80-hour length of the new online class they’ll have to take during their summer break or during the school year and the mandatory high-stakes PRAXIS exam at the end of the course.

About 150 teachers voiced their concerns at a May 8 State Board of Education meeting in Indianapolis.

On May 17, Secretary of Education Katie Jenner told teachers some adjustments have been made to provide more flexibility for educators to complete the course and to exempt teachers who don’t teach reading.

Volunteer and a mother, JoAnn Andreshak (right) reads along with second grader Alaina Watts 8, (left) during the 2nd Annual Mother�s Day Book Give Away hosted by the School House Children Charity at Glen Park Academy in Gary on Friday, May 10, 2024. (John Smierciak/for the Post Tribune)
JoAnn Andreshak, right, a volunteer and a mother, reads along with second grader Alaina Watts 8, left, during the annual Mother’s Day Book Give Away hosted by the School House Children Charity at Glen Park Academy in Gary on Friday, May 10, 2024. (John Smierciak/for the Post-Tribune)

“I’m grateful for the collective effort to balance the urgent need to overcome Indiana’s literacy crisis with our shared desire to increase flexibility for educators,” Jenner said in the letter to teachers.

Jenner said one change allows teachers to choose an asynchronous course option, freeing them up to fit studies into their schedules.

After talking with teachers, Jenner said an educator who holds a pre-K to grade 6 license but teaches a content area that does not involve literacy instruction won’t be required to earn the early literacy endorsement.

If the educator changes course, however, and later teaches literacy content, they would be required to earn the endorsement.

She said all Indiana teachers were strongly encouraged to participate in science of reading training.

Jenner said the most common concerns from teachers involve the PRAXIS test.

The requirement still stands but Jenner said she’s committed to convening an educator advisory team “focused on exploring other potential ways to provide a consistent, quality measure that ensures we are best implementing science of reading practices.”

More than 30 states now require schools to teach the science of reading, a curriculum based on phonics and phonemic awareness so students learn to identify sounds that make up a word.

Second grader A'mei Bledsoe 7, reads a The Cat in the Hat during the 2nd Annual Mother's Day Book Give Away hosted by the School House Children Charity at Glen Park Academy in Gary on Friday, May 10, 2024. (John Smierciak/for the Post Tribune)
Second grader A’mei Bledsoe, 7, reads “The Cat in the Hat” during the annual Mother’s Day Book Give Away hosted by the School House Children Charity at Glen Park Academy in Gary on Friday, May 10, 2024. (John Smierciak/for the Post-Tribune)

Teachers are eligible for a $1,200 stipend for the training and the state is covering the cost of the PRAXIS exam, but the test is creating anxiety.

“I think there’s a bit of a false narrative out there that schools are failing and teachers are part of the problem and this is a magic bullet to fix it,” said Deb Porter, a Northwest Indiana UniServ director for the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Porter didn’t think it amounted to solid education practice for the state to have just one vendor, Keys to Literacy, handling all the training.

“That’s a real break from the way we’ve done things in the past. It doesn’t seem to align with what we consider best practices. I find it hard to believe the only way we can teach good reading is this way… that’s pretty much the box they put it in,” Porter said.

Porter said the PRAXIS exam, which is also required for an Indiana teaching license, was historically set up to be difficult and it’s not unusual for teachers to need to take it more than once. Teachers usually have to pay for re-tests themselves and the exams cost $300.

“It doesn’t necessarily demonstrate mastery any more than completing the class. If you’ve completed the course work, that in and of itself should be enough to demonstrate mastery,” she said.

Carole Carlson is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.



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