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Lilly Endowment awards IU $1.5 million to advance science of reading

Jan 24, 2024

To improve reading achievement among Indiana children, Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded Indiana University a $1.5 million grant to expand evidence-based reading instruction. The grant was made through Lilly Endowment’s statewide initiative, Advancing Science of Reading in Indiana.

The science of reading refers to decades-long, scientifically backed research on how children learn to read efficiently and effectively. The research is rooted in five components of reading: phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. The grant will support the integration of science of reading principles in IU School of Education teacher preparation programs across all core and regional campuses, train faculty and create two positions in the IU Office of School Partnerships to facilitate the adoption of science of reading-based practices within IU teacher preparation programs.

Hope Smith Davis, dean and associate professor at the IU School of Education at IU South Bend Hope Smith Davis, dean and associate professor at the IU School of Education at IU South Bend“These funds will provide crucial support for our faculty and create opportunities to collaborate across IU campuses as we consider the best ways to integrate the new reading models,” said Hope Smith Davis, dean and associate professor at the IU School of Education at IU South Bend. “Thanks to the generosity of Lilly Endowment and the excellence of our faculty, we can equip our students as leading educators with robust understanding of the science of reading framework. And most importantly, we have an opportunity to double down on our long-standing efforts to help improve reading rates for students across our state.”

According to the results of the 2022-23 Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination assessment, known as IREAD-3, 18% of Indiana students have not mastered foundational reading skills by the end of third grade.

Tambra Jackson, dean and professor at the IU School of Education at IUPUI, said it’s critical for teacher programs to evolve their curricula as new research on teaching instruction becomes available.

Tambra Jackson, dean of the IU School of Education at IUPUI Tambra Jackson, dean of the IU School of Education at IUPUI“We are practitioners, but we are also scholars,” Jackson said. “When we know better, we do better.”

Through the Advancing Science of Reading in Indiana initiative, Lilly Endowment allocated up to $25 million to 28 Indiana colleges and universities. The grant amounts varied between $325,400 and $1.5 million based on the number of Indiana teaching licenses graduates at the college or university earn annually in early childhood, elementary education and special education. Across core and regional campuses, IU is the largest producer of teachers in the state.

“According to the National Assessment of Education Progress, 67% of Indiana fourth-grade students are not proficient readers, and 37% of fourth-graders are not even reading at a basic level,” said Ted Maple, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education. “It is imperative therefore that more of Indiana’s elementary students learn to read proficiently, and it is essential that current teachers and the next generation of teachers are prepared to use proven principles to teach reading in their classrooms. We are pleased therefore to help Indiana colleges and universities strengthen the use of these long-established, research-based principles to teach reading in their teacher preparation programs.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Advancing Science of Reading in Indiana initiative in 2022. It complements a statewide effort undertaken in 2022 by the Indiana Department of Education to improve reading achievement in K-12 schools by helping current teachers implement science-of-reading-aligned principles in their classrooms. In 2022, Lilly Endowment made a $60 million grant to the Indiana Department of Education to support that work with school districts and teachers across Indiana.

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