LAUSD Introduces Science of Reading Training Despite California Lawmakers Rejecting Curriculum Mandate

Los Angeles Unified is moving forward with district-wide educational plans based on the science of reading despite state lawmakers rejecting a bill that would have mandated the curriculum. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho revealed that nearly half of the 434 elementary schools in the nation’s second-largest school system have already embraced lessons aligned with the phonics-based science of reading. The district’s objective is to have this approach implemented in all elementary schools by the 2024-25 academic year.

This initiative aligns Los Angeles with other major districts, including New York City, which have also initiated evidence-based strategies for teaching literacy in response to a national reading crisis.

Nevertheless, LAUSD faces distinct challenges highlighted in a report by Families in Schools released in February, detailing instructional gaps and discrepancies between parents and teachers on reading instruction methods.

When it comes to reading proficiency, LAUSD trails behind other California districts in a state with one of the lowest literacy rates nationwide.

Los Angeles’ largest district is diverging from the state’s lawmakers who recently halted a bill mandating science-of-reading-based instruction emphasizing decoding words and phonics.

Contrary to the trend in several states, California is stepping away from mandated science-based reading instruction following the bill’s rejection.

Several states, including Mississippi, Ohio, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas, have already implemented policies supporting science-based reading instruction reforms.

Despite facing obstacles, Los Angeles Unified is dedicated to adopting a unified, evidence-based approach to literacy instruction seen in their efforts to provide materials and training for teachers on new instructional approaches over the summer.

Last month, changes were made to intervention programs in LAUSD as they transitioned to the Literacy and Numeracy Intervention Model, offering a more cost-effective solution reaching a broader group of students.

Superintendent Carvalho has emphasized the importance of a unified set of curricular options aligned with the science of reading for all grade levels, aiming for systemic adoption by June 2024.

Moreover, the district’s new approach includes a range of curricula focusing on literacy instruction components such as phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary.

By promoting the “science of reading” methodology, LAUSD is bucking the “whole-language” theory previously employed by emphasizing decoding over visual cues.

The district believes that a uniform approach to reading instruction will bring consistency to schools and enhance the education of transient students.

An extensive body of research supports the effectiveness of the science of reading in improving literacy rates and mitigating learning losses.

A recent study conducted by Stanford University demonstrated significant improvements in test scores at California’s lowest-performing schools after adopting science-of-reading-aligned approaches.

Students from various states have already surpassed pre-pandemic literacy levels by implementing curricula with explicit phonics instructions.

First graders at Esperanza Elementary School in Westlake in 2021 witnessed improvements in reading benchmarks following the introduction of phonics-based instruction.

Brad Rumble, the school’s principal, highlighted the enhanced reading proficiency of first and second graders after the adoption of phonics-based teaching methods.

Esperanza Elementary School’s systematic approach to reading instruction has yielded positive results and showcased the potential benefits of district-wide implementation.

Recognizing the challenges posed by high poverty levels and homeless populations, Los Angeles Unified is making efforts to enhance reading instruction for all students.

While LAUSD has undertaken new initiatives to educate teachers and parents on the science of reading, there is an acknowledgment that further commitment is needed to sustain progress.

The CEO of Families in Schools, Yolie Flores, underscored the importance of deeper efforts by LAUSD to improve literacy rates among students.

She praised Superintendent Carvalho’s commitment to introducing the science of reading across all Los Angeles elementary schools and urged for robust implementation of the new curriculum.

While feedback on the program has been predominantly positive, concerns were raised within the English-learning community regarding the uniformity of curricula under the new literacy framework.

The California Teachers Association opposed the legislation for its perceived limitations on teacher discretion and its potential impact on diverse student populations.

Despite initial approval of the bill by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, the legislation was ultimately withdrawn following opposition from various groups, including English learner advocates.

Although the implementation of evidence-based reading instruction is yet to be fully assessed, Superintendent Carvalho remains confident in the district’s approach to literacy instruction rooted in the science of reading.

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