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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #22-18
March 30, 2022
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and State Leaders Discuss Literacy Strategies and Legislation During Special Hearing

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today hosted a panel of literacy experts and state leaders to discuss literacy strategies. The special hearing was held to gather input on a number of literacy strategies that are being proposed in legislation and the state budget.

“We want to work on priorities both in legislation and things that have been proposed in the state budget, including literacy specialists and coaches, that we believe can really help offset the challenges that many students have experienced during the pandemic,” said State Superintendent Thurmond. “I know that reading by third grade has eluded the educational system for many years, but this is something that we can achieve. Without it, students are at greater risk to drop out of school, and they are at greater risk to end up in the criminal justice system. This is something we can and must do.”

Thurmond is sponsoring Senate Bill (SB) 952 (Limón), to help existing schools convert to dual-language immersion programs; Assembly Bill (AB) 2498 (Bonta), to expand Freedom School programs, evidence-based Afrocentric literacy programs that have been shown to help students improve their reading by one to two grade levels in as little as six weeks; and AB 2465 (Bonta), which would expand literacy programs to fund home visits to help families reach literacy goals. Thurmond mentioned that those wishing to support AB 2465, AB 2498, or SB 952 may call the Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees.

Guest panelists joining the hearing included Senator Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara); Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, President, California State Board of Education; Dr. Erika Torres, County Administrator, Inglewood Unified School District; Jackie Wong, Executive Director, First Five California; and Dr. Frances Gipson, Director of the Urban Leadership Program and Professor at Claremont Graduate University.

“In the January budget, there is a proposal for the highest-need schools, where we know that students were most affected during the pandemic, that we underwrite the costs of and train literacy coaches that can really create robust programs of literacy and make available reading specialists for one-on-one or small-group tutoring,” said Darling-Hammond. “One of the things we’re learning from the research is that when you do the right kind of small-group or one-on-one tutoring with a strong curriculum in reading, you can very quickly move a child forward in 12 or 15 weeks to catch up to the rest of the class.”

“We know that to truly prepare children for California’s future and reduce achievement disparities, a solid fundamental foundation of early literacy skills is necessary,” said Wong. “A major indicator for later school success is language and early literacy development. Having books in the home and being talked, read, and sang to are especially important for our multi-language learners and families from outside of the U.S.”

Last September, Thurmond launched an initiative to ensure students learn to read by third grade by 2026. In order to advance this goal, Thurmond pledged to secure one million book donations for students in need. Through a partnership with Renaissance Learning, Inc., students downloaded more than five million free online books as part of the literacy efforts.

Thurmond has also pledged to help secure passage of resources in the proposed state budget and legislation as well as to work with community libraries to expand student library memberships and access as part of the strategy to promote literacy in the state. Anyone wishing to support literacy efforts or the State Superintendent’s initiative to ensure that students learn to read by third grade may email

View a recording of the full hearing on the CDE Facebook page External link opens in new window or tab..

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Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Wednesday, February 14, 2024
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