South Central Schools honored for high I-READ scores

UNION MILLS, Ind. - Across the Hoosier state, just over 80 percent of students are passing the I-READ 3 exams, a state standardized test of reading comprehension for third graders.

“That means about one in five students across our state is not reading by the time we need them to,” said Dr. Katie Jenner, the Indiana Secretary of Education.

Jenner visited Union Mills Wednesday to celebrate the South Central Community School Corporation, a district that excelled at I-READ.

Superintendent Benjamin Anderson said their third graders had above a 96 percent passing rate, the highest they’ve ever had.

“It does come down to our demographics and the makeup of our families,” he said.

Anderson said they are a tight-knit, small-town community--almost like a family--and attributes that to their academic success.

“We’re very proud to have a lot of teachers that graduated from South Central that come back and want to serve their community,” Anderson said.

In addition to improved I-READ scores, South Central also saw improved I-LEARN scores, which test third to eighth-grade levels in math and English.

“Sixth grade actually showed double-digit growth in I-LEARN this past year, so sixth grade really stood out in that,” said Nicholas Kimmel, South Central elementary principal. “Another population that has shown a lot of growth is our special education population. Our special education teachers are fantastic.”

But across the state, scores are not so good for I-LEARN tests, averaging a passing rate of just over 40 percent.

“What we’re encouraging is every single school to focus in on their specific data, their individual students, and what can they do to move the needle to support more kids,” Jenner said. “So, it’s really a localized approach when it comes to I-LEARN.”

Amid state and nation-wide challenges like teacher retention and pandemic learning loss, Dr. Jenner is highlighting one small-town school for being able to go above and beyond for their students.

“The culture of South Central is really incredible,” Jenner said. “I mean, you can feel the energy and the passion and the joy that the teachers bring to the school every single day. That matters because, the joy that our teachers bring, certainly, radiates off what our students bring to the table in terms of learning.”

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