March 24, 2023
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Hosts Literacy Webinar and Introduces Co-Directors of Statewide Literacy Efforts
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond hosted a virtual webinar on Thursday, March 23 to discuss strategies to help California students read by third grade and introduce two new statewide literacy directors at the California Department of Education (CDE), Nancy Brynelson and Dr. Bonnie Garcia, who will be working to develop plans to help local educational agencies (LEAs) meet literacy goals.
“An emphasis on literacy and reading comprehension as part of early childhood education is paramount in the effort to ensure that students are not left behind when it comes to reading and language-based skills,” Thurmond said. “It is also key to putting students on the path to graduating and attaining 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. We cannot let this happen.”
The CDE is overseeing a number of literacy programs, including the $37.5 million Comprehensive Literacy State Development Grant, the $250 million Literacy Coaches and Reading Specialists Program Grant, the $4 million California Dyslexia Initiative Grant, the $5 million English Learner Roadmap Policy Implementation Grant, and the $50 million Early Literacy Support Block Grant.
During the webinar, participants highlighted a number of key strategies and tools that have been proven to help students meet literacy goals, including:
- The English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework
- New standards approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) for teacher training programs regarding teaching literacy
- Freedom School® Afrocentric, evidence-based literacy intervention program
- Primary Promise literacy program, which boosted literacy for students from all backgrounds in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)
- Programs to support English learners in reaching literacy goals
Webinar participants included Dr. Hallie Yopp Slowik, Professor Emeritus, California State University (CSU), Fullerton; Dr. Barbara Flores, President, California Association for Bilingual Education; Alesha Moreno-Ramirez, CDE Multilingual Support Division Director; Dr. Tyrone Howard, Professor, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, UCLA; Dr. Kristal Moore Clemons, National Director of Freedom Schools, Children’s Defense Fund; Thomas Harvey, State Director, Children’s Defense Fund; and the newly appointed CDE statewide literacy directors, Nancy Brynelson and Dr. Bonnie Garcia.
Before coming to the CDE, Brynelson served as a special literacy consultant to the CTC and as one of the primary writers of the English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework. Brynelson was also the co-director of the Center for the Advancement of Reading and Writing at the CSU Chancellor’s Office. She has also been a consultant writer for the National Association of Educational Progress’ 2025 Reading Framework and was an Education Program Consultant at the CDE in the Reading/Language Arts Leadership Office.
Dr. Garcia most recently served as a Program Specialist and Literacy Specialist at the Desert Mountain Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), where she established a Literacy Improvement Network for the 40 school districts in the SELPA. Dr. Garcia has served as a structured literacy/dyslexia interventionist and is an Associate of the Orton-Gillingham Academy for Practitioners and Educators, through which she has provided structured literacy training for educators that includes training to support the SELPA’s dyslexia initiative.
Prior to the webinar, Thurmond also announced $1 million in grants to LEAs to expand Freedom School® programs at districts across the state. Freedom School®, a program of the Children’s Defense Fund, is an Afrocentric, evidence-based literacy program that is proven to improve reading levels for students from all backgrounds.
The March 23 webinar is the first of many webinars intended to present best practices for school leaders to use in helping their students to reach reading by third grade. The webinar is designed to reach classroom teachers and classified staff, administrators, students, families, and school partners engaged in efforts to support California student literacy and learning.
A complete recording of the March 23 webinar is available on the CDE Facebook page .
# # # #
Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100