Mayor Johnson announces a third grade reading campaign

Mayor Kevin Johnson announced the launch of a third grade reading campaign for the greater Sacramento area Tuesday at his press conference.

According to Johnson, the three areas that the campaign will focus on are school readiness, school attendance and summer learning.

The 10-year campaign will combat low literacy levels and make sure that all Sacramento students will be reading at grade level by the time they graduate third grade, Johnson said.

“Third grade is a pivotal point for young people. It’s where kids transition from learning to read and reading to learn,” he said.

“In terms of a city, it impacts our crime rate, impacts our employment rate, impacts our competitive environment in terms of a highly educated work force, health factors and quality of life,” Johnson said.

According to Sacramento City Unified School District standardized testing scores, 39 percent of third graders in Sacramento are reading at grade level, Johnson said.

“Our vision is to be the first city in this country where every third grader graduates and can be reading at grade level,” Johnson said. “We have to mobilize our entire community.”

Ron Fairchild, senior consultant of the campaign acknowledged that the reading initiative is not a new campaign, but the achievement gap is a result of things that happen before kids get into kindergarten.

“Lower-income kids on average hear 30 million fewer words than their middle- or upper-income peers by the time they reach age 3,” Fairchild said.

Sacramento County Office of Education 

City Unified School District
Superintendent Dave Gordon said he is pleased with the reading campaign efforts.

“For the first time, we’ve got superintendents and city leaders and officials working together to help align city services with school district services so we cut out the waste and we make the programs that we have together most effective,” Gordon said.

According to Gordon, the reading rates got this bad because of the significant amount of funding that has been taken away from schools.

“The state has not funded schools in a consistent or effective matter,” Gordon said, adding that there needs to be more focus on the range of subjects schools teach.

Literacy is important for students reaching their full potential, Capt. Dan Schiele of the Sacramento Police Department said. “Without basic reading skills, a person may choose a life of crime in order to survive.”

Parent Monica Jones of Natomas expressed concern about the lack of parent voices.

“You have got to engage the parents in this process,” she said.

“The parents are the key and most important indicator of everything we’re talking about,” Johnson said.

Another key challenge is students for whom English is a second language, Johnson said.

“We want to be able to holistically look at this whole problem to make sure everyone has an opportunity,” he said.

At the end of the press conference, Johnson also addressed the Kings’ issues.

“I feel like we’re dying a slow death,” he said. “Every day there’s a different clue of the likelihood that the Kings are going to Anaheim.

“We can’t control a business decision that the Maloofs are going to make, which they feel is in their best interest,” Johnson said. “We as a community want to have grace and dignity and to continue to support the Kings as long as they’re here in town.”

Editorial Note: A correction has been made to this story after it was published. The incorrect information has been struck out and the correct information has been added.

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March 22, 2011 | 11:38 PM

Just some fact checking. Sac City Unified scores for 2-5 grades show 48.6% of students are proficient in Language Arts. Proficient is ABOVE grade level. However the level of proficiency for African-Americans is 38.4%. David Gordon is superintendent of Sacramento County Office of Education. You could look this stuff up too before you print your story.

March 23, 2011 | 8:52 AM

It appears the writer is quoting our mayor for the 39% figure (although quotations are missing).

So either the writer misquoted KJ, or KJ stated the wrong figure. Meanwhile, 48.6% is still nothing to crow about. When over half of the 3rd graders it is clear that our system (or lack thereof) of public education and parental responsibility have utterly failed.
According to Sacramento City Unified School District standardized testing scores, 39 percent of third graders in Sacramento are reading at grade level, Johnson said.

March 23, 2011 | 8:46 AM

A good example of 3rd grade reading level can be found over in the pages of the Sacramento Bee!

March 23, 2011 | 1:04 PM

Let’s get to the heart of the problem, the Sacramento City Teachers Union (SCTA) owns the Sacramento City School Board. We need the Wisconsin Governor over here!

March 23, 2011 | 3:15 PM

Language arts involves more than the ability to read. The writing components in testing (recognizing good writing, errors, and the ability to use language) are very significant components of language arts assessments. I’m not sure how the mayor came up with his numbers, but to take the 3rd grade STAR test results and say that’s how well 3rd graders read would be misleading. As a former SCUSD teacher, the 39% figure sounds much closer to the mark than 48% for just reading (and understanding what has been read) – but as has already been pointed out neither score is acceptable.

March 23, 2011 | 3:30 PM

I must take issue with Gordon’s claim that “reading rates got this bad because of the significant amount of funding that has been taken away from schools.” I taught in Sac City Unified long before Gorden arrived and things were much worse years ago. Overall, scores have actually improved, partly due to better teaching methods and better (though not perfect) curriculum. Yes, English Language Learners do impact overall scores, not only because have a limited English vocabulary, but also because even those with more fluency lack the prior knowledge much reading is based on by virtue of the fact that they come from different cultures. Consequently, their reading comprehension suffers.

Actually, parents are key. Getting the parents involved is more important that most would ever guess. When parents who don’t even speak English well or at all provide support, their children do far better in school. But there are some parents who are not very literate themselves or just feel inadequate in this area, for whatever reason – and through no actual fault of their own. Include a component that will equip these parents and you’ve accomplished far more than hours and hours of after school and early/late programs will ever do – and it will cost less, too.

March 23, 2011 | 6:37 PM

I was a product of the SJUSD system. I read well below grade level throughout grade school, not to mention awful scores on all of those yearly tests. Don’t recall it being the fault of teachers unions. I just never had the patience or care for testing.

I currently hold an MA and Post Grad work in English Literature. Talk about teachers unions all you want, but perhaps apathetic students and their parents need to be held more accountable, in fact that’s were we should be looking first.

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