Indiana, Lilly Endowment making $111M investment in early literacy

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The state of Indiana and Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. on Thursday announced what they’re calling the largest financial investment in literacy in the state’s history. The Indiana Department of Education said the $111 million investment will support the state’s goal of having 95% of Hoosier students pass the IREAD-3 exam by 2027.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana Secretary of Education Dr. Katie Jenner announced the investment during an event Thursday in Anderson.

The state said the investment will support the deployment of instructional coaches to Hoosier schools, offer stipends of up to $1,200 to teachers who participate in professional development focused on the Science of Reading, provide targeted support for students in need of improving their reading skills, and create a literacy center focused on Science of Reading strategies.

The Science of Reading, the IDOE said, is a research-based strategy that integrates instructional practices with efforts focused on phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

As part of the effort, Lilly Endowment has committed a $60 million investment.

“Lilly Endowment’s incredible investment today represents a long-term commitment to Indiana’s long-term success,” said Governor Holcomb. “Reading is fundamental to each student’s lifelong opportunities, and it’s foundational to the core of our state’s future. This immense investment will make an enduring impact on our youngest generation of Hoosiers, empowering them with fundamental skills that they will carry with them throughout their lives.”

The announcement of the investment comes about a week after the IDOE said nearly one in five students “have not yet mastered foundational reading skills by the end of grade three.” The most recent IREAD-3 results found only about 82% of students passed.

The state is partnering with the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning, or CELL, at the University in Indianapolis and the Hunt Institute in North Carolina, which will provide instructional coaching in the Science of Reading for teachers in 54 Indiana schools as part of a pilot program. The IDOE expects to expand the program to about 60% of Hoosier elementary schools by the end of the 2025-2026 academic year.

The state is committing $26 million to the effort and said Lilly Endowment plans to provide an additional $25 million to support Indiana colleges and universities’ efforts to incorporate or enhance Science of Reading methods into their undergraduate elementary education teacher programs.

“Far too few Indiana third graders have the necessary reading skills that they will need for future academic and life success,” Lilly Endowment CEO N. Clay Robbins said. “Although we understand that many factors affect reading achievement, we are compelled by the research showing that Science of Reading strategies can help all students learn to read better and address equity gaps in reading. Knowing the important contributions teachers make every day in their classrooms, we want to make sure they are fully supported in this important work to help students learn to read well.”

Lilly Endowment said it will provide further information on the initiative to colleges and universities throughout the state in the coming weeks.

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3 thoughts on “Indiana, Lilly Endowment making $111M investment in early literacy

  1. The fact that 1 out of 5 rising fourth graders cannot master foundational reading is a sad commentary on Indiana’s early education mindset. Early reading skills are more effectively achieved in both day-care and kindergarten environments (where social interaction skills also are better enhanced). Yet too many so-called policymakers in Indiana harbor a visible disdain for pre-elementary education despite vast amounts of research that show the earlier basic education begins, the better results will be in later years. I fear that while the Lilly dollars are significant, they are being invested too late in a student’s learning process to make the desired difference.

    1. Dolly Parton has single handedly raised the average education and salary of the population of Tennessee through her foundation work.

      This will take a decade or two to payoff, but it is a really smart investment (perhaps too little too late)

  2. Thank you Lilly Endowment for investing in such a critical educational building block. The Indiana Department of Education should be completely embarrassed that nearly one out of five students have not mastered foundational reading by the end of third grade. Why are children allowed to advance to the next grade if they cannot read??! The base curriculum for grades K-3 should focus HEAVILY (as in almost exclusively) on reading, writing and math. If we get them on a solid foundation during K-3 they will be so much more succesful moving forward!