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Fresno Unified Unveils 5-Year Literacy Plan. What Are the Expectations?
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 1 month ago on
May 24, 2024

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Following up on a pledge made a year ago by then-Superintendent Bob Nelson that every Fresno Unified first-grader would be reading at grade level under the district’s new literacy initiative, the district late Thursday made public its five-year plan, Every Child Is a Reader.

The goal is to make sure that all students, starting in pre-kindergarten and continuing through first grade, will be proficient in reading by the end of first grade. The plan includes action plans for each of the seven regions that were crafted specifically for the region’s identified needs and curriculum and teaching strategies.

The plans increase training for classroom teachers and paraprofessionals and also provide more assistance, such as literacy coaches, to boost instructional efforts.

But while the regional plans are varied, the end-of-school-year goals for the four youngest grade levels apply districtwide and include:

  • Literate preschoolers will know some letters, including the letter that starts their name and “write marks to represent own name or words.”
  • Literate transitional kindergartners will be able to write their own name and also match more than half of upper and lowercase letter names to their printed form.
  • Literate kindergartners will be able to read at least 40 grade level high-frequency words by sight and print all letters legibly.
  • Literate first graders will be able to recognize and read at least 150 grade level high-frequency words and irregularly spelled words.

Educators have long held that students who aren’t reading at grade level by the third grade run the risk of not graduating from high school. Up until the third grade students are learning to read. After that, they need to be able to read to learn as their lessons become more advanced. Fresno’s plan accelerates the target for proficiency to the first grade.

Reading Is Essential

In the spring of 2023, less than half of the district’s students in kindergarten through third grade were at or above level on the i-Ready Reading Diagnostic, an in-house assessment that the district administers several times throughout the year to determine areas where students are struggling and then focus attention on helping them to catch up, the district said.

I-Ready trends show that as students get older, the percentage reading at or above grade level “drastically” declines to one of every three students.

Statewide assessment testing shows similar results. On last year’s SBAC assessment, one-third of the district’s students tested in grades 3-8 and 11 met or exceeded standard on the English language test, while less than one-quarter of all students met or exceeded standard on the math test.

“The current state of reading achievement in Fresno Unified establishes the urgency and need for this literacy plan, with its focus on early learning and the primary grades,” Dr. Natasha Baker, the district’s chief academic officer, said in a news release. “Every Child Is A Reader represents a bold commitment to the success of our students. By prioritizing early literacy, we are laying the groundwork for academic achievement, closing opportunity gaps, and empowering our young learners to reach their greatest potential.”

The plan is available online in English, Spanish, and Hmong.

Fresno Unified Literacy Plan

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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