Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo
California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #22-31
May 20, 2022
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Leads Hundreds of Local Districts and Charters in Pledge to Improve Literacy Efforts

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today hosted a special meeting with hundreds of local educational agency (LEA) leaders and administrators from California’s school districts and charters for a conversation on statewide and schoolwide efforts to ensure all students learn to read by third grade.

More than 550 districts and charters were represented at the Calling All Schools: The Plan to Ensure All Students Learn to Read by Third Grade event. In conjunction with the meeting, representatives from school districts and charters signed a pledge to commit towards helping reach the third-grade literacy and biliteracy goal by 2026.

“This important milestone has evaded educational systems in our country for a very long time, but we believe that now, in California, the moment is right for us to pursue literacy and biliteracy by third grade,” said Superintendent Thurmond. “We think that these are critical things to support our students. Right now, our state has more resources than we’ve ever seen to make this possible, and we must address every aspect of how we help our families get to literacy goal.”

An emphasis on literacy and reading comprehension as part of early childhood education is paramount in the effort to ensure all students are not left behind when it comes to reading and language-based skills. It is also key to putting students on the path to graduate and attain success in future careers. When students do not learn to read by third grade, they are at greater risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline.

It is urgent for the state, and for all schools, to redouble efforts to help students recover and expand literacy skills amidst national reports showing declines in student reading levels during the pandemic. In addition to sponsoring Assembly Bill (AB) 2465 (Bonta), AB 2498 (Bonta), and Senate Bill (SB) 952 (Limón)—which would expand literacy programs and literacy interventions, and fund more dual language immersion schools—Superintendent Thurmond and the California Department of Education (CDE) are also working with the Governor to fund reading coaches and specialists for our schools.

Guest panelists joining the statewide meeting included Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, President, California State Board of Education; Dr. Frances Gipson, Director of the Urban Leadership Program and Professor at Claremont Graduate University; Dr. Kathy Escamilla, Professor, University of Colorado Boulder and researcher of educational issues related to Spanish speaking language students in U.S. public schools; Dr. Eduardo Reyes, Superintendent, Chula Vista Elementary School District; Dr. Marilu Gorno Tempini, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco; and Dr. Tyrone Howard, Professor and the Inaugural Director, UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families.

Darling-Hammond presented new resources mentioned in the revised State Budget that can support educators on the journey of helping our students to read. These include: the implementation of statewide universal prekindergarten; foundational reading skills, vocabulary, and curriculum support; funding for literacy intervention specialists and literacy coaches; distributing approved diagnostic student assessments to guide LEAs on how students are progressing; and hiring well-prepared teachers and updating teacher performance expectations in literacy.

“We are on the move; there’s a lot of knowledge in the field and there’s a lot of enthusiasm and resources that we can use to make this dream a reality,” said Darling-Hammond.

During the meeting, districts identified areas where they may need help in meeting the literacy goal and how they can receive technical assistance in the future.

Last September, Superintendent 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 1 million book donations for students in need. Through a partnership with Renaissance Learning, Inc., students downloaded more than 5 million free online books as part of the literacy efforts. Superintendent 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 school literacy efforts or the initiative to ensure that students learn to read by third grade may email

# # # #

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

Last Reviewed: Friday, May 20, 2022
Recently Posted in News Releases