by Daphne Young, Education Reporter
So, the California Reading Coalition has released its first ever California Reading Report Card, which has ranked 287 school districts across the state, based on third grade reading performance. And the results look pretty dismal for Bay Area schools.
In fact, the San Francisco Unified School District ranks 267 out of 287 school districts across the state. To add insult to injury, Marin, Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Alameda Counties all have school districts that rank at the very bottom of the list, according to the CA Reading Report Card.
The actual breakdown suggests over 51 percent of third graders in nine Bay Areas school districts “read below level.” At SFUSD, only 22 percent of third graders read on their level. Numbers are even lower for eight other Bay Area school districts. Check out the results below:
The rankings included districts with 100 or more Social Economical Development (SED) Latinx third graders. Research focused on Latinx students because they make up 43 percent of California’s K-12 enrollment. Studies show this group is also less likely to have outside learning support.
The California Reading Report Card combined the two most recent California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress cycles from this age group, which spanned 2017-18 and 2018-19 since no testing took place in 2020.
While San Francisco and other Bay Area school districts landed at the bottom of the list, ironically, Southern California topped the list, with 80 percent of the highest performing districts, including Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County and Riverside County.
The San Francisco Unified School District ranks 267 out of 287 school districts across the state.
Fresno County also topped the list with four of the top 30 districts – two Fresno County schools were even in the top 5 percent.
In response to the report, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced he will be creating a task force aimed at ensuring that every California student will learn to read by third grade by the year 2026. That’s a tall order. But, Thurmond says, it must be done.
“We already know that when students learn to read, they can read to learn anything, and this is a gateway skill that can carry them to any point in their life, career and in their journey,” Thurmond said.
“We also know that when students don’t learn to read by third grade, they are at greater risk to drop out of school and they are at greater risk to end up in the criminal justice system,” added the state superintendent.
“From my standpoint, this is a strategy that is about many things: helping children learn to read, but also putting them on a path that can create success for them. Our students can learn and overcome obstacles, but we have to give them the resources to do that, and now is clearly the time to advance this.”
During the virtual press conference held on Sept. 21, 2021, Thurmond said that the new task force will be created to bring together practitioners, advocates, researchers, foundation partners, thought leaders, students, parents and other experts to identify key strategies for improving reading scores. Thurmond also said that the goal will be to include a biliteracy milestone for dual-language learners.
Jackie Thu-Huong Wong, chief deputy director from First 5 California, attended Thurmond’s virtual press conference. Wong added that a baby’s brain is wired for learning at birth.
“California has to work together to prioritize early care learning of its youngest children,” said Wong. “We believe that early targeted literacy interventions can improve outcomes for an entire generation of Californian’s children, and we are so grateful and look forward to working with Superintendent Thurmond and the team to make literacy a reality for all California kids.”
“We also know that when students don’t learn to read by third grade, they are at greater risk to drop out of school and they are at greater risk to end up in the criminal justice system.”
Before ending the press conference, Superintendent Thurmond encouraged those interested in participating in the new literacy effort or who wish to learn more to email email@example.com. Thurmond is calling for efforts to get books in the hands of as many students and families as possible.
In addition, later this month on Oct. 19, the California Reading Coalition is hosting an annual gathering of educators in hopes of improving reading scores and instruction for California students. That event will also be virtual and attendance is free!
For information and to register, go to Getting California Moving: Improving Reading in the Golden State. And parents: We can do our part. Let’s pick up a book and encourage our children – all ages – to READ!
Daphne Young is the Education Reporter at the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. The Chicago native is an award-winning journalist who’s covered news for radio and TV stations around the country. She attended San Francisco State University and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. If you have an education story that you’d like to see the Bay View cover, please contact Daphne by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.