[New Jersey – January 9, 2024] This afternoon, Governor Murphy delivered the 2024 State of State Address. In his speech, the Governor outlined planned efforts to begin addressing literacy for K-12 students. Over the last year, 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 (NJLL) Coalition, a statewide alliance of diverse associations, organizations, and advocates aimed to enact a high-quality statewide plan that addresses literacy in every public school in the state.

The following is a statement from JerseyCAN Executive Director Paula White:

“During a terribly rainy day in New Jersey, Governor Murphy’s focus on literacy served as a desperately needed ray of sunshine for the many children across the state who need to learn how to read and write. No community in the Garden State is immune to our literacy problem, most especially our most vulnerable communities, and for the last year, organizations and institutions across the state have joined with JerseyCAN to push this administration to tackle our literacy crisis.

While the work of cementing important changes and implementing them on the ground has just begun, Governor Murphy’s proposed initiatives reflect those for which our coalition has long advocated, such as investment in teacher training, literacy assessments of students, and collaboration with local universities and colleges to prepare future teachers to address these significant challenges once they are in our public classrooms.

Today, Governor Murphy clearly made addressing literacy a top priority. We commend him for showcasing the issue in a transparent and public forum and defining clear solutions that will have an impact. But there is a great deal of work to be done, and there will be no quick fix. The solutions outlined today energize a discourse to provide our children and our teachers with support to address this battle, and we pledge to work side by side with him to ensure we address this issue with the urgency it deserves.”

In 2023, an analysis by ExcelinEd found that the New Jersey Department of Education has failed to adopt “minimal fundamental literacy principles.” And out of the 17 basic learning principles of reading, New Jersey had adopted only four. Nationwide, only Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire had fewer. In addition, the Nation’s Report Card, a biennial academic report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a congressionally mandated initiative administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), stated that New Jersey has failed to move the needle in closing socioeconomic or racial gaps in 4th-grade reading proficiency for the past twenty years. And in a Spring hearing by New Jersey’s State Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee it was noted that 58% of the state’s third graders were not meeting reading standards, with that only 10 percent of students in many of the state’s critical urban areas are reading at grade level.


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