While Ritz has argued that the IREAD-3 doesn’t give teachers enough information about individual students, the results do show an “achievement gap” in reading scores that shows up when test results are broken out by demographics and other factors.
For example, just 79 percent of students whose families have low enough incomes to qualify for the free and reduced lunch program passed the IREAD-3 test when it was given in March. The final pass rate went up to 86 percent after students who’d failed the March test went through intensive remediation at their schools and re-took the test this summer.
Just under 64 percent of students who don’t speak English as their native tongue — classified as “English language learners” – passed IREAD-3 when it was given in March. The pass rate went up by 10 points, to just over 74 percent after failing students received remediation and were tested again.
Janet Boyle, assistant director of the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis, said the disparity in test results is a national issue.
“This is not just happening in Indiana,” Boyle said.
It’s a critical issue, though. Third grade is when students are expected to move from learning to read to reading to learn. “By the fourth grade, the curriculum expands to include science, social studies and other subjects where learning content becomes important,” Boyle said.
Boyle said the disparity issue is a difficult one for teachers to address. She noted that families who live in poverty, for example, change schools and school districts more often than their middle-class peers. That makes it more difficult for teachers to identify a student’s reading needs and track that student’s progress.
She also noted that multiple studies show that students who lag behind in their reading proficiency have difficulty catching up in higher grades without intervention and are at higher risk for failure.