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Eighth-grader Victoria Dato and sixth-grader Christopher Atkins spoke to about 500 of their schoolmates at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School about the importance of education, literacy and attending school during the release of Pacific’s Beyond Our Gates annual Literacy Report Card.

Eighth-grader Victoria Dato and sixth-grader Christopher Atkins spoke to about 500 of their schoolmates at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School about the importance of education, literacy and attending school during the release of Pacific’s Beyond Our Gates annual Literacy Report Card.

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Community Engagement

County Literacy Report Card: Third-grade reading level shows continued gains

Oct 23, 2017

The number of third-graders reading at or better than grade level improved for the second consecutive year, according to University of the Pacific's fifth annual San Joaquin County Literacy Report Card released today.

There was a 5-point rebound locally in 2016 and the recently released 2017 state data indicate another 3.4-point improvement, pushing the county up to 35.4 percent. That's a significant two-year gain, although San Joaquin County still lags behind the state average of 44 percent.

"The improvement in grade-level reading by third the last two years is an important accomplishment for San Joaquin County schools," Pacific President Pamela Eibeck said. "Many students, parents, educators and agencies have worked diligently to create this progress. We must now continue and intensify our collaborative early-literacy efforts to help more children reach grade-level reading."

Several other indicators in the Report Card remained relatively flat:

  • The rate of preschool enrollment stayed at 40 percent, behind the state average of 49 percent. Children in preschool get a head start in reading and other skills;
  • Mothers without a high school diploma improved one point to 24 percent. Mothers with high school diplomas are more likely to be able to help their children learn to read;
  • Library books borrowed per capita continued to lag at only 2.2 — well behind the state average of 7.25.

San Joaquin Literacy Report Card 2017 There also was a significant increase in the truancy rate to 33 percent — well up from the previous year of 24 percent. For the report, truancy is defined as three or more unexcused absences during the school year. Students lag in learning reading skills when they are not in the classroom.

The report card was released today in a morning press conference at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School in south Stockton. It was attended by Vanessa Sheared, dean of the Gladys L. Benerd School of Education at University of the Pacific, Jane Steinkamp, assistant superintendent for the San Joaquin County Office of Education, and Brian Petrovek, CEO of the Stockton Heat hockey team.

The reading improvement is important because research shows the ability to read proficiently by the end of third grade is a critical milestone for a child's education. Those who don't reach that level are more likely to fall behind in school or even drop out. Reading proficiency dropped throughout California, including San Joaquin County, when the traditional "pencil to paper" testing was replaced by computer-based testing. But the rebound bodes well moving forward.

"The improvement seen in third-grade reading is testimony to the hard work being done at San Joaquin County schools and by the students, themselves. The hard work will continue, and the whole community can help lift literacy rates," County Superintendent of Schools James Mousalimas said. "Supporters of education in San Joaquin County understand how important literacy is to the future of our students and our community." While the truancy totals are concerning, San Joaquin County schools are aggressively addressing both truancy and chronic absenteeism with new positions and programs emphasizing the importance of attendance.

A record number of pre-K-8 schools took part in the Beyond Our Gates Every Day Counts attendance challenge. All students with perfect attendance in September received recognition, including bookmarks and tickets to November Stockton Heat hockey games, where those with perfect attendance will be recognized by the team. Beyond Our Gates donors also contributed Kindle Fire electronic readers to be raffled by each school for presentation to a student with perfect attendance.

When the attendance challenge started in 2013, 40 public and private schools registered and 10,000 students were honored. This year, 82 schools took part and there were 21,913 students with perfect attendance.

"The passion that attendance officers, teachers, administrators, parents and — importantly — students have exhibited during the attendance challenge has been impressive," said Mike Klocke, Pacific's community relations director, who organizes the attendance challenge. "Every day truly does count for students, and it's great to see this intense focus throughout the county on attendance."

While the per capita use of the public library remained low, the Report Card's statistics based on 2016 State Library figures do not include some key factors such as the reopening of the Fair Oaks branch in east Stockton and increased hours of operation, including weekends, for the Stockton-San Joaquin Public Library system. Funding from voter-approved Measure M, a library and parks initiative, finances the increased hours and staff additions. Preschool enrollment for 3- and 4-year-olds remained unchanged after several years of ebbs and flows, largely dictated by the economy and funding levels for public programs. The rate peaked at 46.3 percent in the 2013 Report Card, then plummeted to 34.2 percent the next year before beginning an ascent to the 40 percent level, where it has been the past two years.

Media contact:
Mike Klocke | 209.607.1379 |
mklocke@pacific.edu