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STATEHOUSE — The State Senate has approved a bill that would implement new rules regarding Hoosier kids’ ability to read.

The bill would now allow kids to try and pass the state’s IREAD exam in the second grade. If they don’t pass it then, students will then have three chances to pass it in the third grade. If they they are still unable to pass it schools would be required to hold those students back.

“Consistently, every single about one in five students in Indiana can’t read effectively by the end of third grade. This is unacceptable,” said the bill’s author Linda Rogers (R-Granger). “Sending these kids on through school without the ability to read sets them up to struggle throughout the rest of their education and the rest of their life.”

Rogers was also adamant that the overall framework of the bill does not make it a “retention bill”, saying that holding kids back is a “last resort” to ensure they get the proper reading skills they need.

Some Democrats don’t see it that way. Some, like State Sen. Andrea Hunley (D-Indianapolis), believe that’s exactly what it is and that specific types of students will get the short end of the stick from it.

“The students who suffer most are marginalized students,” she said. “Students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and this will hurt those under-represented students.”

State Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis), who is the State Senate minority leader, compared the bill to that of similar legislation passed in Michigan.

“They saw not just an over-proportionate, an extra-proportionate amount of students that were held back were students of poverty or of color,” Taylor said.

Finally, State Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) was lukewarm to the bill, even applauding Rogers for taking in some Democratic suggestions in the bill’s framework when it comes to an appeals process for kids at risk of being held back. But, Ford said he still opposes the bill and said that more investment in Pre-K is the way to get Hoosier kids back reading where they need to be.

The bill passed along party lines and now heads to the Indiana House for consideration.

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