Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 29th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Reading Ahead

Child_readingWebExclusive: Office of Education addresses literacy gap in children

Forty-six percent of Californian third graders are reading above or at standardized proficiency levels, according to the 2010-2011 STAR testing results. That number is even lower—40 percent—in Santa Cruz County, but there has been a steady push to work towards raising those percentages.

Most recently, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, along with more than 150 other U.S. communities, has signaled their intent to apply for the 2012 All America City Awards, which is offered by the National Civic League. By doing so the county has agreed to work towards addressing child literacy by focusing on ways to improve three key areas: school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning.

Susan True is the executive director of First Five Santa Cruz County, an organization that was established in 1998 by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to act as the “steward” of Prop 10 (Tobacco Tax) and apply those funds to early childhood education.

“This year, for the first time, the award is focused on the importance of grade level reading, so communities will be chosen based on their development of plans that address the three key areas that we know impact children’s later reading success,” says True.

The shift in focus towards child literacy stems from two recent research papers published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The first is a 2010 special report done by the foundation’s data center, KIDS COUNT, titled ”Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters,” which reports that 76 percent of Californian fourth graders scored below proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). California ranked 46 out of the 50 states in the report. Massachusetts was ranked number one with 53 percent, and Louisiana ranked last with 82 percent.

The second report, “Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation,” was published in 2011 by the foundation and shows that children who don’t read proficiently by the third grade were four times more likely to drop out of high school. Children who lived in poverty and didn’t read proficiently by the third grade were 13 times more likely to drop out of high school.

“In Santa Cruz County, about 40 percent of our third graders read at proficiency or above,” says True. “That means 60 percent don’t, which is a pretty big deal. What we know is that studies have demonstrated that third grade reading scores are an indicator of later academic success. It’s linked to their likelihood of graduating from high school, later health outcomes, employment, incarcerations—I mean major, major threats of lifelong well-being can be tracked to if a child is on target in third grade.”

According to True, Santa Cruz County has a “higher than average” amount of children who are English language learners, and the state average is 38 percent. According to the California Department of Education, 96 percent of English Language Learners in grades K-three speak Spanish as their first language.

Mary Lou Goeke, executive director of United Way of Santa Cruz County, says that English Language Learners struggle because their opportunities aren’t always the same.

“If English is not your first language and you haven’t had the opportunity to go to a really quality preschool ... and you’re not getting all those early sounds and opportunities to explore—singing, and talking, and sounding out words—well, by the time you get to kindergarten you’re already behind and missing it, and it just gets worse as it goes on,” says Goeke.

Goeke stresses that the learning starts at the child’s infancy—before that even—not just when they begin school proper.

“The idea is that you start all the way back, when mom first becomes pregnant, [and] you think ‘what can we do to have a healthy pregnancy,’ but then after the baby’s born, day one is day one of learning,” says Goeke.

Goeke believes that the entire community can come together and find ways to address this issue.

“What we want to do is get everybody in the community all excited about the process and say ‘How can a supermarket help kids learn to read?’ or even at a doctor’s office,” says Goeke. “It’s completely possible for us to succeed in this work, there are proven strategies that community members can embrace, that will help our kids succeed.”

Santa Cruz County, along with the rest of the 150 applicants, must turn in their plans by March, and according to True “what we’ll be doing right now is calling upon community leaders to help us develop the plan between now and then.” True also believes that the county has a good of a chance of attaining the award at that time.

“We have got a lot of work to do, but I think our community has proven that we can raise reading scores,” says True.  “We’ve already done that without a solid plan, I know we can do even more with one.”

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location