August 23, 2023

Indianapolis program will hire parents as reading tutors

Circle City Readers program director Brooke Arnett-Holman speaks at Pleasant Run Elementary School in Warren Township on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023.  - Dylan Peers McCoy/WFYI

Circle City Readers program director Brooke Arnett-Holman speaks at Pleasant Run Elementary School in Warren Township on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023.

Dylan Peers McCoy/WFYI

Indianapolis is spending $1 million in federal pandemic relief to bring reading tutors to 10 locations around the city.

Circle City Readers aims to serve 800 students this school year. About 40 tutors, including trained parents, will work with students in small groups several times per week. 

The program uses materials that follow the science of reading, strategies for teaching literacy that are backed by research, to tutor students in small groups. 

The initiative is a partnership between the education advocacy group RISE Indy, Mayor Joe Hogsett, MSD of Warren Township and Indianapolis Public Schools. 

“Research tells us, our own experiences in IPS tell us that high dosage literacy tutoring has proven to be a powerful tour tool, offering tailored and intensive approaches to improve student's reading and comprehension skills,” said IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson.

The participating sites include: 

  • Pleasant Run Elementary School (MSD Warren Township)
  • Hawthorne Elementary School (MSD Warren Township)
  • Sankofa School of Success at Arlington Woods School 99 (IPS)
  • Global Prep Academy at Riverside School 44 (IPS)
  • The PATH School at Stephen Foster School 67 (IPS)
  • Liberty Grove at Elder Diggs School 42 (IPS)
  • Tindley Genesis Academy
  • Avondale Meadows Academy 
  • Vision Academy Riverside
  • Jonathan Jennings School 109 (IPS) Boys and Girls Club

The program comes at a moment when reading is a state and national priority. Nearly 1 in 5 Indiana third graders don’t have foundational literacy skills, according to state test results released earlier this month. That’s one of the lowest passing rates in the last decade. And most Marion County districts and charter schools are well below the state average.

Policymakers and education leaders hope that a new focus on the science of reading will help pull the state out of a years-long slump in literacy.

The city piloted Circle City Readers at two sites earlier this year. The pilot only included 36 students, so it’s hard to draw conclusions. But program leaders are optimistic. 

“Students showed progress in their fluency, the numbers of words they could read and their reading accuracy, again in just eight weeks,” said program director Brooke Arnett-Holman.

On Wednesday, education leaders gathered to kick off the first full school year that the program will run. It is unclear whether it will continue after this year, but the city is exploring long-term funding sources.

“Every day, we hear reports that a lack of reading skills is the most urgent education issue facing our state and nation,” Hogsett said. “That’s why we are continuing to take action to meet the needs of our students and families.”

Contact WFYI education reporter Dylan Peers McCoy at dmccoy@wfyi.org

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