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Empowering Education: Join the Fight for California Kids' Literacy
Opinion
By Opinion
Published 2 weeks ago on
May 16, 2024

Despite setbacks in legislative progress, the California Kids Read Act's localized success in LAUSD and the advocacy efforts of the 21st Century Alliance highlight ongoing efforts to boost literacy rates and educational outcomes statewide. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Dear Friends:

The 21st Century Alliance has been at the center of the effort to pass one of the most important education reform bills of the last decade, known as the California Kids Read Act.  Unfortunately, the bill hit a speed bump in the state Legislature last month, when the it was quietly shelved until next year.  The good news is that the state’s largest school district is forging ahead, nonetheless.

Brian Brennan
Executive Director, 21st Century Alliance

Steve Westly
Board Chair, 21st Century Alliance

Opinion

The hero in this story is Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.  Under Carvalho’s leadership, LAUSD is following the path of the New York City schools and dozens of states to raise literacy rates by leveraging the growing body of research known as the science of reading.

This needs to happen statewide, but the movement in LAUSD is significant.  The district is home to more than 500,000 students – nearly 1 in 10 California public school kids.

Addressing Literacy Challenges in LAUSD

The situation in LAUSD is also particularly urgent.  Three-quarters of the district’s fourth graders are not reading at grade level, well below California’s already low state average. Los Angeles also has a high percentage of low-income students — students for whom literacy is critical for escaping poverty.

Early results have been promising.

Esperanza Elementary School in Westlake, where 65% of students are classified as English learners, has seen reading scores soar following its roll-out of science of reading-aligned curricula in 2021.  The percentage of second graders reading at grade level rose from 39% percent to 61%, while the number of first graders at grade level went from less than half to 65%.

California Department of Education data show that English learners were driving the progress at Esperanza. Between 2019 and 2023, reading scores from the school’s English learner population rose from 89 points below standard to 61 points below standard, despite pandemic learning loss.  There is much to be done, but that momentum would be the envy of most California school districts.

Momentum will also be important as we gather with legislative leaders and stakeholders in Sacramento to continue our fight for the state’s kids.  The scientific consensus around the science of reading has been in place for decades, but inertia has had its way in too many California classrooms.

The 21st Century Alliance is about promoting evidence-based public policy. Our experience with the CA Kids Read Act is evidence of another kind:  That in order for good public policy to carry the day, we need to encourage and support legislators willing to do hard things. That’s where the 21st Century Alliance comes in. To put your shoulder to the wheel with us, we hope you’ll contribute here.

Make Your Voice Heard

GV Wire encourages vigorous debate from people and organizations on local, state, and national issues. Submit your op-ed to bmcewen@gvwire.com for consideration.

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