[New Jersey – October 2, 2023] Last week, at the Newark School Board meeting, test results for the NJSLA state exam were released to the public, showing that only 19% of third graders can read on grade level – which provided no improvement over last year’s scores. Across all grades, the results show only 29% of Newark students are reading on grade level.

Last Spring, JerseyCAN launched the New Jersey Legacy of Literacy Coalition (NJLL), a statewide marketing and legislative 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, it released a report detailing the significant decline in reading outcomes in New Jersey and showcased the importance of adopting the principles of the Science of Reading (SOR). Currently, New Jersey continues to represent a minority of States that still do not use SOR and continues to tolerate outdated approaches in teaching the fundamentals of reading. Most recently, at last month’s State Board of Education meeting, Paula White, Executive Director of JerseyCAN, demanded during its public comment period they adopt basic standards in teaching literacy statewide.

The following is a statement from Ms. White regarding Newark’s reading test scores:

“The test results presented to the Newark School Board last week are unacceptable. Only two out of every ten third-graders in Newark are at grade level. These numbers are jarring and abysmal.

The warnings that began shortly after the pandemic have now escalated to real-time results, with Newark children being deeply affected. None of us should be surprised by these results because stagnation is the most likely outcome without a uniform approach across the district aligned with the Science of Reading.

Any effort short of overhauling the district’s literacy infrastructure will not work. Newark is in crisis, and we owe it to our children to review every area of the learning process, from teacher training to actually developing a new curriculum.

This past Summer, JerseyCAN issued a report highlighting specific policies that challenge what has become the sad state of the status quo. Statewide officials must start by adopting better standards to drive curriculum. And with Newark no longer under state control, local leaders have the power to make substantive change right now. The district can start today by securing training from nationally recognized, practice-proven providers that have the actual bandwidth, scale, and expertise to deliver support to our hardworking teachers.

The test scores last week deserve an all-hands-on-deck response, and we hope that the Newark school district will gravitate to solutions at a level that mirrors the magnitude of the problem.”

Paula White is the executive director of JerseyCAN.


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