State Schools Chief Tony Thurmond announced in a virtual press conference in Sacramento on Tuesday a vision to ensure that every student in California will learn to read in third grade by 2026. The effort will also include a bi-literacy stage for bilingual learners.
In order to make progress towards the goal, Thurmond said a task force will be created to bring together practitioners, advocates, researchers, foundation partners, thought leaders, students, parents and other experts to identify key strategies.
The announcement comes as educators have agreed for many years that reading is the most crucial academic skill because it is the foundation of learning. They argue that children learn to read throughout third grade and then read to learn. However, only one in three students is reading proficiently at this time and that proficiency — or lack thereof — is a predictor of high school graduation, according to officials at the Children’s Reading Foundation in Kennewick, Washington.
In a press release issued by the state Department of Education, Thurmond said efforts are underway “to establish a structure and composition for the task force, as well as to establish when the task force will task force will meet and details about the types of issues they will address.” In addition to announcing the formation of the task force, he confirmed that Congresswoman Mia Bonta, D-Oakland, has agreed to sponsor legislation to help advance the purpose of the working group.
“We already know that when students learn to read, they can read to learn anything, and it’s a gateway skill that can take them anywhere in their lives, from their career and their journey,” Thurmond said. “We also know that when students don’t learn to read in third grade, they’re at a greater risk of dropping out of school and they’re at a greater risk of ending up in the criminal justice system.”
“From my perspective,” said the former Assemblyman and East Bay Democrat, “this is a strategy that is about a lot of things: helping kids learn to read, but also put them on a path that can allow them to succeed Our students can learn and overcome obstacles, but we need to give them the resources to do so, and it is clearly time to move things forward.
The legislation, which will be formally introduced in 2022 when the Legislative Assembly meets again in January, will detail the recommendations from the task force. This could include providing resources to advance literacy and biliteracy goals through professional learning to teach reading, family engagement strategies, and methods to get books into the hands of students and their families. , to name a few.
Thurmond expects the legislation to “present a multi-faceted strategy that takes into account readiness issues, chronic absenteeism, the needs of students with disabilities and multilingual learners, early education and socio-economic factors. economic factors that impact a student’s ability to learn to read,” according to the press release.
For her part, Bonta said she looked forward to working with the task force members.
“Literacy for every child in California has been a passion of mine, and quite frankly, it’s what I believe is the surest path to justice and true democracy in our state and in this country,” he said. she declared.
“Literacy is the key to fairness,” added Bonta, whose district includes Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro. “It forms the foundation of our educational capacity and achievements, and we will fight together for literacy, equity and justice in the future.”
Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Solano, liaison with the State Advisory Board on Special Education, shared a poignant personal story of his own childhood battle to overcome dyslexia, a disorder learning characterized by difficulty in reading.
“It was embarrassing, humiliating, and I was always called stupid or lazy,” he recalls. “I hope we can take on this role and this working group in the future to make so much difference in people’s lives – not only the societal changes and benefits, but also the economic prosperity of educating people. is the path to success, and I can’t wait to be a part of it and forge new paths.
Jackie Thu-Huong Wong, chief assistant director of First 5 California, which works to improve the lives of children and families throughout the Golden State, highlighted the program’s “Speak, Read, Sing” campaign which focuses on the early brain development.
According to Wong, a baby’s brain is wired to learn at birth.
“California needs to work together to prioritize early learning for its youngest children,” she said. “We believe targeted early literacy interventions can improve outcomes for an entire generation of California children.”
Thurmond encouraged those interested in getting involved in this new literacy effort or wanting to learn more to email [email protected] He also called for efforts to get the books into the hands of as many students and families as possible.
An archived broadcast of the full press conference, complete with American Sign Language interpretation, can be seen and heard on the CDE’s Facebook page.