Tulare County receives $1 million for literacy

Three of every five Tulare County students do not meet the standard for reading and writing; is one of only two counties to receive funding from State Superintendent


sacramento — The majority of K-12 students in California struggle to read, write, and research. Literacy skills are even worse in Tulare County, where three in five students do not meet statewide standards in English language arts (ELA).

These stark statistics underscore the need for more literacy education in the state and help is on the way for two counties trying to rewrite the future for students struggling to read.

On June 25, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced a new literacy campaign that will begin for the 2019–2020 school year. The initiative will provide $1 million in funding through a partnership with the county offices of education in Tulare and Riverside. The two counties were chosen due to their current efforts in the area of literacy, paired with unmet needs that can be fulfilled when aligning with the California Department of Education (CDE) under this new partnership. Additionally, working with these two counties allows the CDE to implement strong early learning efforts, work with established biliteracy programs, and provide pathways to increase student access to books in the home language. There is also great potential for customized efforts to specific underserved populations such as English learners, native tribe populations, homeless youth, and foster youth student groups.

In 2018, California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress results showed 50.12% of all K–12 students did not meet the standard for ELA statewide. In Tulare County, 59.24% of K-12 students did not met the standard for ELA and 83% of students were considered below standard in reading comprehension.

Furthering the sense of urgency, the achievement gap between white students and students of color is present before they even begin kindergarten. By the time children of color are three or four, they are already behind their white peers.

“We need to fix our literacy rates in California, and we need to start early and empower a whole village of support in order to get our students to the level of literacy that they should be at. I am proud of my team for finding creative ways to increase resources provided to vulnerable student populations so that we may better serve them in their quest for proficient literacy, to encourage and support a love of reading, and to help move the literacy rates for all students in California in a positive direction,” said Thurmond.

Upon taking office, Superintendent Thurmond immediately started working on his priority initiatives, with improving statewide literacy as one at the top of the list. With that in mind, this campaign will seek to provide books in the hands of students, resources and support for teachers to help support the efforts, and family and community engagement to reinforce the love of reading for all ages. This new campaign is just the first step of Superintendent Thurmond’s bigger vision to roll out a large-scale statewide literacy effort that will require the CDE to identify and partner with private funders and foundations to help increase literacy rates in our public schools.

Thurmond said, “We can’t do this alone, but with the right partners, we can make some serious strides in a positive direction when it comes to our state’s literacy rates.”

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