There was little change in the percentage of Indiana third graders who passed a state reading test in 2013.

Test takers did slightly better with 85.5 percent passing, or about 0.3 percentage point growth over the initial results from 2012, according to data released today by the state. Students who did not pass can take the test again before next school year and those results will be added to the preliminary numbers, so the passing rate is likely to improve.

Indianapolis Public Schools had the lowest passing rate in the state at 65.5 percent. Lawrence (75.8 percent), Warren (77.3 percent), Perry (79.3 percent) and Pike (79.6 percent) townships joined IPS among the 25 lowest scoring districts in the state. The top Marion County district was Franklin Township at 93.2 percent, ranked 79th in the state out of 290 districts.

Indianapolis charter schools also struggled with the reading test. While eight IPS schools exceeded the state average, Christel House Academy was the lone charter school to do so. To download the data, go here.

The test has been controversial since it was adopted because students who do not pass can be blocked from advancing to fourth grade.

In early 2011 the Indiana State Board of Education instituted IREAD, the third grade reading test, with the goal of assuring Indiana students could read by fourth grade. Tony Bennett, state superintendent at the time, championed the idea, and state board members agreed that Indiana needed to draw a “line in the sand” to assure students could read by fourth grade.

Critics argued a multiple choice standardized test could not truly measure whether or not a child can read. Glenda Ritz, who defeated Bennett in the 2012 election, has said her frustration with the new reading test helped motivate her to challenge Bennett. Ritz did not comment about the test results today, issuing only a three sentence statement that outlined the results and linked to the data.

Ritz has advocated for converting the third grade reading test from its pass-fail format into a different kind of exam that assigns each student a numerical reading level. That information would be more useful to teachers, Ritz has argued. She also opposed using the test as a barrier to hold students back in third grade.

Implementation of the third grade reading rule also raised questions about it value. Bennett’s education department advised schools that third graders who failed the reading test could still advance to fourth grade for all other subjects, as long as they were grouped with third graders for reading instruction. Critics said that made the notion of that students were “held back” meaningless as many schools routinely group students by ability level for reading in much the same way.

A proposal by Ritz to reexamine the reading test was quickly tabled by the state board last summer before she could present her ideas and has never been revived for discussion.