State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond hosted a panel of literacy experts and state leaders on Wednesday to discuss literacy strategies. The special hearing was organized to gather feedback on a number of literacy strategies that are proposed in the state legislation and budget.
“We want to work on the priorities both in the legislation and on the things that have been proposed in the state budget, including literacy specialists and coaches, who we think can really help compensate for the challenges many students have faced during the pandemic,” State Superintendent Thurmond said. . “I know third grade reading has eluded the education system for many years, but it’s something we can achieve. Without it, students are at greater risk of dropping out and they are at greater risk of ending up in the criminal justice system. It is something we can and should do.
Thurmond sponsors Senate Bill 952, to help existing schools convert to bilingual immersion programs; Assembly Bill 2498, to expand Freedom School programs, evidence-based Afrocentric literacy programs that have been shown to help students improve their reading by one to two levels in as little as six weeks; and AB 2465, which would expand literacy programs to fund home visits to help families achieve their literacy goals. Thurmond said those who wish to support AB 2465, AB 2498 or SB 952 can call the Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees.
Panelists invited to the hearing included Senator Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara; Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, chair, California State Board of Education; Dr. Erika Torres, County Administrator, Inglewood Unified School District; Jackie Wong, executive director, First Five California; and Dr. Frances Gipson, director of the Urban Leadership Program and professor at Claremont Graduate University.
“In the January budget, there is a proposal for schools most in need, where we know that students have been most affected during the pandemic, that we meet the costs and train literacy coaches who can really create robust literacy programs and making reading specialists available for one-on-one or small-group tutoring,” Darling-Hammond said. “One of the things we’re learning from the research is that when you do the right kind of small group or one-on-one tutoring with a solid reading curriculum, you can very quickly move a child forward in 12 or 15 weeks for catch up with the rest of the class.
“We know that to truly prepare children for California’s future and reduce achievement disparities, a strong foundational foundation of early literacy skills is needed,” Wong said. “A major indicator of later academic success is early language and literacy development. Having books at home and being spoken, read and sung about is especially important for our multilingual learners and families outside of the United States”
Last September, Thurmond launched an initiative to ensure that students learn to read before third grade by 2026. To advance this goal, Thurmond has pledged to secure one million book donations for students in need. Through a partnership with Renaissance Learning, Inc., students have downloaded more than five million free online books as part of literacy efforts.
Thurmond is also committed to helping secure the passage of resources within the state’s proposed budget and legislation, as well as working with community libraries to expand student library memberships and access under strategy for promoting literacy in the state. Anyone interested in supporting literacy efforts or the state superintendent’s initiative to ensure students learn to read before third grade can email [email protected]
See a recording of the full hearing on the CDE Facebook page.