Tulare County receives $500,000 for literacy
SACRAMENTO — Almost one-third of Tulare County residents are functionally illiterate.
That puts Tulare County third to last in literacy in the state, according to 2003 statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, the most recent tallied by the organization. More recent data shows that the majority of K-12 students in California, and three in five in Tulare County, continue to struggle to read, write and research even if the overall literacy rate has improved.
The fact that more than half of all K-12 students struggle with literacy prompted State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to launch a new literacy campaign last month. The initiative will provide $500,000 each for the county offices of education in Tulare and Riverside for the 2019-20 school year. 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.
Kindra Britt, spokesperson for the California Department of Education, said each county will do a needs assessment to determine specific district needs in the area of literacy and develop a plan to increase community and family engagement. She said the plan will include measures of success to evaluate the effectiveness of the initiative in these counties.
Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire could not be reached for comment.
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.
Yet Tulare County students are improving at a better rate than the rest of the state. From 2015-2018, the number of students statewide who did not meet the standard for ELA improved from 56% to 50% while Tulare County improved from 68% to 59%.
Thurmond’s 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.”