SIX OUT OF 10 CHILDREN CAN’T READ BY THIRD GRADE
- Early literacy legislation calls for an evidence-based approach to teaching children how to read.
Sacramento, CA (February 7, 2024) – Six out of 10 children in California can’t read by third grade, according to a policy brief co-authored by the EdVoice Institute in December 2023. A new early literacy bill, AB2222, introduced today by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), with 13 bipartisan co-authors, and sponsored by EdVoice, Decoding Dyslexia CA, and Families In Schools, aims to raise awareness about the severity of the early literacy problem, and ensure a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to teaching all California elementary school students how to read.
“If there is one primary responsibility of public elementary schools, it is to teach children to read so they may have a future filled with opportunity,” said Marshall Tuck, EdVoice CEO, and sponsor of the bill. “We now know how to best teach children to read because of interdisciplinary research known as the Science of Reading. It’s time we require this evidence-based approach to early literacy instruction in every California classroom. We are grateful to Assemblywoman Rubio for championing a child’s right to read,” added Tuck.
The bill requires updates to state-adopted English language arts (ELA), English language development (ELD), and reading instructional materials. In addition, the bill calls for professional development for elementary educators in evidence-based literacy instruction that adheres to the science of reading. The bill will improve accountability in teacher preparation programs related to new literacy teaching standards and provide support for professional development for teacher preparation faculty. The science of reading follows evidence from a large body of interdisciplinary research that guides effective classroom practices benefitting all students, including English learners. Evidence-based practices include systematic and explicit instruction focused on phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics, fluence, oral language development, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing.
“As an educator, I have firsthand knowledge of the struggles instructors face to ensure their students know how to read,” said California State Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-48), the bill’s author. “California teachers work tirelessly to better the success of each student. However, California is failing its students, especially diverse students from low-income families. California must address this social inequity by following decades of interdisciplinary research showing what it takes for students to develop strong literacy skills. AB2222 will set up both our students and our educators for success by equipping them with evidence-based resources,” said Assemblywoman Rubio.
California is the fifth largest economy in the world, but according to the latest California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress data (CAASPP), with more than 1.7 million students in kindergarten through third grade, only three in 10 third-grade students from low-income families are on grade level in ELA, compared to six in 10 of their higher-income peers.
For low-income Black students, English learners, and students with disabilities, the gaps widen with only two in 10 students (three in 10 for Latinos) in each respective group on grade level in ELA by third grade. California is facing a literacy crisis in part due to ineffective early literacy instruction.
“This is not just an education issue, it’s a social justice issue,” said Megan Potente, Co-State Director of Decoding Dyslexia CA. “Early learning gaps all too often turn into life-long opportunity gaps. The path to ending adult illiteracy and ensuring opportunity for all starts with effective early literacy instruction. We call on our elected leaders to take immediate action on comprehensive early literacy legislation given the urgency of this crisis,” added Potente.
By third grade, students move from learning to read to reading to learn, and those who are not on grade level rarely catch up on their academic journey. This is a major contributing factor to the 28% adult illiteracy rate in our state, one of the highest in the nation. Research shows that adults with limited literacy are more likely to be unemployed or earn an income that falls below the poverty level.
According to the World Literacy Foundation, illiteracy can also lead to poor health conditions, disenfranchisement, and even crime. Among youth involved in the juvenile justice system, up to 85% are functionally illiterate.
“Every parent wants their child to read – they know that literacy unlocks their potential,” said Yolie Flores, Families In Schools President and CEO. “Parents are counting on us to address this literacy crisis so that their children can reach their hopes and dreams,” added Flores.
AB2222 is headed to the Assembly Education Committee this spring. Supporters have an opportunity to make their voice heard by signing this petition.
EdVoice is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that, since 2000, advocates to reshape public education in California by directly influencing state policy so that students from low-income communities have futures filled with opportunity.