California Bill Would Require Phonics-Based Reading Instruction

The method teaches children to sound out letters, unlike the ‘sight recognition’ approach.
California Bill Would Require Phonics-Based Reading Instruction
Tests show that only 43 percent of Calilfornia’s third-graders read at grade level. (Ariel Skelley/Getty Images)
Micaela Ricaforte

A California legislator and former educator introduced a bill that would require the state’s public schools to use a “science of reading” approach to teaching young children to read.

Assembly Bill 2222, introduced Feb. 7 by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, would mandate all schools use the approach focused on phonics—that is, teaching students to “sound out” letters, groups of letters, and syllables to form words.

Many schools in California have already adopted the “science of reading” method, but some still use the “balanced literacy” method that teaches “sight recognition,” or memorization, of words in addition to phonics.

The bill’s authors estimate the bill would cost the state $250 to $300 million to train teachers—however, authors argue that the benefit of eradicating illiteracy would justify such costs.

Advocates point to California’s literacy rate as an indicator of the need for change.

State-administered Smarter Balance Test results for 2023 indicate that only 43 percent of the state’s third graders read at grade level, while the rate was even lower—30 percent—among low-income students.

The bill is also supported by several literacy and education advocacy groups, such as Decoding Dyslexia California and Families in Schools, and education policy organization EdVoice.

In a Feb. 7 press release, EdVoice referenced a study by the California Early Literacy Coalition that reported that only three in 10 third-grade students from low-income communities can read at grade level compared to six in 10 of their higher-income peers.

EdVoice said it backed the bill because it ensured a “comprehensive, evidence-based approach to teaching all of California’s elementary school students how to read and addressing the deep inequities around reading achievement for California’s most vulnerable students.”

Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.
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