California's Reading Dilemma

EdSource Special Report

California’s Reading Dilemma

Above: Student Armando Garcia 9 prepares to read during a reading class at Ethel I. Baker Elementary School in Sacramento in June 2022.

California is part of a national debate over how to teach reading fueled by exhaustive brain research into the science of reading that suggests that most children must be explicitly taught how to connect sounds with letters. The philosophical tug-of-war pits teaching phonics, how to sound it out, and teaching meaning, how to think it through.  The stakes are very high: research shows that students who aren’t reading at grade level by the third grade will struggle to catch up throughout their education career. Only 48.5% of third-graders tested at grade level or above in English language arts during the 2018-19 school year, before the pandemic stalled all learning.  In 2022 only 42.17 of third-graders tested at grade level.

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