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As remaining classrooms across the state open their doors for a new school year this week, JerseyCAN Executive Director Paula White will plan to address the New Jersey State Board of Education during its monthly meeting’s General Comment period on Wednesday, September 6 at 2:00 pm to advocate for the adoption of the Science of Reading (SOR). Last year’s New Jersey Student Learning Assessments (NJSLA) test scores showed unprecedented decline throughout the state in literacy and reading, with 42.4% of all New Jersey students not meeting grade-level expectations in English Language Arts (ELA), with a far more profound impact in New Jersey’s Black and Brown communities.
New Jersey still serves as one of only a few states in the country that have yet to align with the evidence-backed SOR model, which was developed by the National Reading Panel with a surgical, explicit focus on the five pillars of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
“Let’s be clear – the Garden State is beginning the new school year with the majority of students not reading at grade level – this is completely unacceptable. We cannot allow the status quo to continue this school year is New Jersey, our students deserve better,” stated Paula White, Executive Director of JerseyCAN. “It’s time for honest talk, transparency of data, and an urgency for action – with families, advocates, and our Governor and his Department of Education at the table to redirect the state away from outdated and unscientific models for reading instruction.”
At the end of the last school year, in response to the dismal literacy scores, JerseyCAN, the only statewide advocacy organization in New Jersey committed to ensuring access to high-quality public schools for every child regardless of zip code, cultural background, or socioeconomic status, launched the New Jersey Legacy of Literacy Coalition (NJLL), a statewide campaign aimed at influencing Governor Phil Murphy, the New Jersey State Legislature, and the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to adopt a high-quality statewide plan that addresses literacy in every public school in the state. Over the summer, the organization also released the report, “Leveraging Literacy – The Path to Education Recovery in New Jersey,” which analyzed reading and literacy data in critical areas of the state such as Newark, Camden, Milburn, Jersey City, and Asbury Park, along with identifying specific policy solutions encompassing teacher training and professional development; universal literacy screenings; parent notification to students identified with reading deficiencies; and support for the use of high-quality curricular and instructional materials.