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California Bill Would Mandate Science of Reading

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A newly introduced California Assembly bill would require the state’s teachers to be trained and reading to be taught only according to the principles of the Science of Reading. AB 2222, introduced by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, a Democrat from the Inland Empire in Los Angeles County, is backed by 20 state-wide advocacy organizations and 15 School District Superintendents and School Board Trustees.

Rubio, who spent 16 years as a teacher, commented, “It is amazing to see the support of so many well-respected advocacy organizations and individuals joining in the fight for educational equity in our classrooms…Only four in 10 third-grade students are reading on grade level in California. This is unacceptable given the resources and values we hold as a state. An evidence-based approach to early literacy instruction is critical, otherwise we will continue to see high school graduation rates plummet and adult illiteracy rates increase.”

Other organizations, including the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) are strongly opposed to the bill for its “sole use of the science of reading as it is not proven to address the needs of California’s Emergent Bilingual/English learner students.” CABE is urging members of the Assembly Education Committee to vote against the bill, explaining, “CABE is strongly opposed to the sole use of the science of reading as it is not proven to address the needs of California’s Emergent Bilingual/English learner students. We know teaching our students to read and write in English and other languages is a top priority, AND, we strongly believe our students need other literacy elements beyond the science of reading to become proficient readers. Educators need the professional trust to know how to best teach their students. Using a one-size-fits-all approach does not provide an equitable path for the success of our Emergent Bilingual/English learners. California can do better.”

Critical to the bill’s impact are its definitions of the Science of Reading and “evidence-based literacy instruction,” which is defined as “evidence-based explicit and systematic instruction in phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary and oral language development, fluency, comprehension, and writing that can be differentiated to meet the needs of individual pupils and that adheres to the science of reading. For limited-English-proficient pupils, this shall include instruction for English language development…”

According to the bill, “Science of Reading means an interdisciplinary body of scientifically based research that includes all of the following:

(1) Informs how pupils learn to read and write proficiently.

(2) Explains why some pupils have difficulty with reading and writing.

(3) Indicates that all pupils benefit from explicit and systematic instruction in phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and writing to become effective readers.

(4) Emphasizes the pivotal role of oral language and home language development, particularly for English learners.

(5) Does not rely on any model for teaching word reading based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues, including a three-cuing approach, with the exception of instruction to pupils who are identified as deaf or hearing impaired…”

The bill’s authors estimate that training teachers to conform with its requirements would potentially cost California $250-300 million.

If it passes, the bill would go into effect in 2025.

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