With an unprecedented budget surplus, California can implement required universal screening and support struggling readers early.
Reading is the key to education. Learners need to read in order to succeed in all subjects from math to art history. It is the singular skill that unlocks success in our school system. Unfortunately, California’s record on reading achievement falls short of the mark.
The California Reading Coalition reports that,“half of California’s students do not read at grade level. What’s worse, among low-income students of color, over 65% read below grade level.” These numbers are stunning and even more so when we have evidence that early intervention can change reading outcomes. Multiple studies suggest that if help is provided before the end of first grade, 90% of children with reading difficulties will achieve grade level reading abilities. We need a systematic plan to catch reading challenges early.
States Requiring Screening (Blue)
Thirty-nine states have recognized the importance of early reading intervention and have adopted universal screening policies. Surprisingly, California is not one of these states. Studies have found that the number of students requiring special education can be reduced by up to 70% when early identification and prevention programs are put in place. Reducing students in special education can also create significant cost savings over time as it typically costs 3x more to serve a student in special education than in general education.
We have reached a unique moment in time and have the opportunity to fix this. Our Governor, Gavin Newsom, has dyslexia and understands this issue personally. In addition, he has a record-breaking 2022-2023 $286.4 billion budget this year. The cost to require universal screening for risk of dyslexia would be in the low tens of millions of dollars annually. Given the wealth of money available, this would be a very small investment. Governor Newsom can include required K-2 universal screening for risk of dyslexia in his budget this year. Finding kids we know will struggle to learn to read is the first step in setting their course for future success. This should be an investment we can all get behind.
Want to see K-2 universal screening for reading risk including risk of dyslexia become a requirement in California? Contact your state legislator and let them know how important this issue is to you and our community.