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Board President Kelly Gonez, Superintendent Austin Beutner and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Celebrate School Reopenings (04-29-21)

CONTACT:                                                                FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Shannon Haber, 213-393-1289                             April 29, 2021

Board President Kelly Gonez, Superintendent Austin Beutner and
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Celebrate School Reopenings

  • Visit Highlights Progress in Early Literacy in Elementary Schools

  • Secondary Schools Continue Reopening Schools in the Safest Way Possible

LOS ANGELES (April 29, 2021) – Board President Kelly Gonez and Superintendent Austin Beutner hosted State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond in a visit to Sylvan Park Elementary School to highlight the success of Los Angeles Unified’s Primary Promise program in improving reading skills among high-needs first-grade students.

Board President Gonez and Superintendents Beutner and Thurmond also toured Van Nuys High School, which included a visit to the school’s award-winning Automotive Academy, a career-technical education program that helps prepare students for a wide range of high-demand careers.

Primary Promise was launched in August 2020 as part of a commitment to help all elementary school students build a foundation in literacy, math and critical-thinking skills. Quick diagnostic reading tests taken by first-graders at the start of the school year showed that students whose kindergarten year was interrupted by the pandemic were falling behind and Los Angeles Unified took action.

Los Angeles Unified added more reading teachers to work directly with about 2,500 students who were struggling to read, with a plan tailored specifically to each student. Students in the Primary Promise program who were well behind in reading when the school year started have already caught up with their peers by midyear.

In one part of Los Angeles Unified, the percentage of 450 first-graders in the program meeting grade-level standards increased from 9% at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year to 37% by February. That compares with 37% of all 6,000 first-graders in the area who met grade-level expectations at the start of the school year and 39% by mid-year.

Building on that early success, the program was expanded this semester to 6,700 students in 225 high-needs schools across Los Angeles Unified. They’re now outpacing other students in their progress in reading fundamentals including fluency, accuracy and decoding letter sounds and words.

Los Angeles Unified plans to further expand Primary Promise by the start of the 2021-22 school year to help 14,000 students in 453 high-need elementary schools.

"The results we're seeing at Sylvan Park Elementary and other Primary Promise schools show that highly effective instruction and robust supports can eliminate opportunity gaps before they begin,” Board President Gonez said. “As we look towards a long-term recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must leverage these strategies to accelerate learning and put all students on a path to success."

“We need to provide the foundation in literacy, math and critical-thinking skills for every child in elementary school,” Superintendent Beutner said. “The Holy Grail of education is early literacy. What we’re seeing in early results of the Primary Promise tells us this is a big step in the right direction.”

“The pandemic created the greatest challenge of our lives, and the amazing work on display by these educators and students is proof that we will overcome it,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Thurmond said. “The promising results from this literacy effort set an inspiring example for all California schools as we work together to craft strategies that help students recover from this crisis.”

“We implemented Primary Promise at Sylvan Park Elementary because we need to accelerate student reading development to mitigate learning loss that occurred during the pandemic,” Sylvan Park Elementary School Principal Sandra Escartin said. “The goal is for every one of our students to be fluent readers by third grade. The intensive small group structure that’s fundamental to the program creates an optimal setting for teachers to deliver this highly targeted instruction and begin to close important literacy skill gaps.”

“The Van Nuys High School team made up of our custodial staff, clerical staff, cafeteria staff, teachers and administrators worked tirelessly to prepare for the return of our students,” Van Nuys High School Principal Yolanda Gardea said. “It was a proud day to share our hard work with Board President Gonez and Superintendents Beutner and Thurmond. We missed our students and are so happy they are back!”

Click here for more information on the Primary Promise.