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Annual literacy report card: Region’s third-graders remain at risk

Dec 14, 2015

Nearly three in four San Joaquin County students left third grade last year without having mastered the reading skills they need for future academic success, according to University of the Pacific's fourth annual San Joaquin Literacy Report Card.

For the first time, the report card includes results from the California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance, a standardized test introduced this year to measure student achievement against the state's new Common Core Standards. Results show only 27 percent of local third-graders demonstrated grade-level proficiency on literacy portions of the test. Statewide, 38 percent of third-graders did.

Along with that disappointing news, though, came more promising trends in other indicators of early literacy: Preschool enrollment and maternal education levels increased while truancy dropped for the fourth consecutive year.

"We understood that, given a new test and new standards, these first-year scores might be lower than we'd like to see," said Pacific President Pamela A. Eibeck, who launched the report card in 2012 as part of the university's Beyond Our Gates Reading by Third initiative. "We take these results as a signal that we must redouble our efforts to ensure all San Joaquin County children are strong readers by the end of third grade. Based on progress in other key areas, we believe our work is making a difference."

Cover page for Literacy Report Card
Read the 2015-16 Literacy Report Card

The Beyond Our Gates initiative unites some 50 community partners - including school districts, the public library, businesses, nonprofits and faith-based groups - in an effort to improve early literacy.

Research shows that the ability to read proficiently by the end of third grade is a critical milestone on a child's educational path. Those who don't hit this milestone are more likely to fall behind in school - and even drop out.

The 2015-16 report card reveals that truancy among K-12 students in San Joaquin County fell to 24 percent, down from 25 percent last year and nearly 30 percent the year before. Statewide, the truancy rate was 31 percent. Truancy, defined as three or more unexcused absences during the school year, has been linked to poor reading outcomes.

As the region's economy has started to improve, so has the percentage of San Joaquin County children enrolled in preschool. Preschool enrollment was 42 percent county-wide, up from 34 percent the previous year. Statewide, the rate was 47 percent. Children who attend preschool are better prepared with the skills they need to become strong readers.

The percentage of new mothers without a high school diploma decreased slightly to 25 percent from last year's 26 percent, but continues to lag behind the statewide average of 18 percent. A child's academic achievement is closely connected to the education level of his or her parents, especially the mother.

While library borrowing remained flat in San Joaquin County for the third consecutive year, Beyond Our Gates members praised the Stockton-San Joaquin Public Library System's commitment to enhancing literacy services, even at a time when funding remains uncertain.

"The public library has proven to be one of our strongest partners, leading with innovative programs that address some of our community's top literacy challenges," Eibeck said.

For example, in response to research showing that children can lose important literacy skills over the summer break from school, the library launched Summer Book Buddies, a free tutoring program. Recognizing the need to empower parents and caregivers with tools and information to support literacy at home, the library is also participating in Pacific's San Joaquin Reads outreach and awareness campaign.

"The library strives to connect all residents to the resources they need to be strong readers - and effective citizens," said Suzy Daveluy, City Librarian and member of the Beyond Our Gates Executive Committee.

About Beyond Our Gates initiative

Beyond Our Gates represents University of the Pacific's commitment to work with community partners to improve the social and economic health in Stockton and San Joaquin County. University President Pamela A. Eibeck convened a series of public forums in 2010 to discuss the community's most urgent problems and to begin considering solutions. Through these continuing conversations, education emerged as a pressing challenge and the most promising means of enhancing quality of life. Beyond Our Gates strives to do that through such projects as Reading by Third, Tomorrow Project academies for elementary and high school students, and through ongoing community engagement via the Beyond Our Gates Community Council. The Reading by Third initiative was recognized by the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading with a 2013 Community Pacesetter award. For more information, visit BeyondOurGates.org.

About University of the Pacific

Established in 1851 as the first chartered institution of higher education in California, University of the Pacific prepares students for professional and personal success through rigorous academics, small classes, and a supportive and engaging culture. Widely recognized as one of the most beautiful private university campuses in the West, the Stockton campus offers more than 80 majors in seven schools. The university's distinctive Northern California footprint also includes a campus in San Francisco, home to the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and new graduate programs in health, food and technology fields, and in Sacramento, home to the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and new graduate programs in health, education, business and public policy. For more information, visit www.pacific.edu.

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