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San Joaquin County K-12 attendance improves, but other literacy indicators drop

Sep 10, 2014

School truancy edged downward in San Joaquin County last year for the second consecutive year, according to University of the Pacific’s third annual San Joaquin Literacy Report Card.

But that progress was offset by negative trends in other key indicators of early literacy: Preschool enrollment dropped sharply, the rate of new mothers without high school diplomas inched up, and library use was stagnant.

The report card was released today, during the second week of Pacific’s annual Every Day Counts attendance challenge. Each fall the university invites all San Joaquin County public and private elementary schools to participate.

“It is encouraging to see attendance continue to improve, but this year’s numbers underscore the urgency with which we must act to ensure the future success of our children and our community,” said University of the Pacific President Pamela A. Eibeck, who launched the report card in 2012 as a part of the university’s Beyond Our Gates Reading by Third initiative.

2014 Literacy Report Card CoverThe collaborative initiative unites some 50 community partners – including school districts, the public library, businesses, nonprofits and faith-based groups – in an effort to improve early literacy in San Joaquin County.

Research shows that the ability to read proficiently by the end of third grade is a critical milestone on a child’s educational path. Those who don’t hit this milestone are more likely to fall behind in school – and even drop out.

The 2014 report card reveals that truancy in San Joaquin County among K-12 students fell to 24.7 percent from 28.5 percent last year and 30 percent the year before. Truancy is defined as having three or more unexcused absences during the school year.

"The progress we've been making on reducing truancy has been encouraging," said Stockton City Councilman Moses Zapien. “But we know many children continue to face obstacles to consistent attendance. We have to continue to support families and children and raise awareness of the vital importance of going to school each and every day.”

Last year, 40 public and private schools in San Joaquin County participated in Pacific’s attendance challenge and 10,000 students achieved perfect attendance during September. This year, 50 schools are participating.

Students who maintain perfect attendance throughout the month of September are entered into a drawing for prizes. This year, prizes have been donated by Steve Fisher of Horace Mann insurance; Lincoln Center; World of Wonders Science Museum; Pacific Athletics; and members of Pacific’s Beyond Our Gates Community Council.

Dee Alimbini, administrator for child welfare and attendance in the Stockton Unified School District, said the idea is to encourage families and children to build good attendance as a habit.

“Schools and families working together to make sure that children are in school every day guarantees their future and the future of our community,” Alimbini said.

Zapien and Alimbini joined Lynn Beck, dean of the Gladys L. Benerd School of Education at University of the Pacific, in announcing the new report card at a morning press conference at Peyton Elementary School in Stockton.

“We must make certain all young children have access to rich early learning experiences,” Beck said. “The problem is serious, but it is not unsolvable. We have to continue to focus on attendance, preschool enrollment, helping parents achieve their own educational goals, and strengthening our libraries.”

The percentage of San Joaquin County 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool dropped to 34.2 percent from 46 percent in 2011, a trend that may be attributed to lingering unemployment in the county and the effects of cuts to subsidized preschool programs. Children who attend preschool are better prepared with the skills they need to become strong readers.

The percentage of new mothers without a high school diploma increased slightly to 26 percent from last year’s 23 percent, but remains below the high of 30 percent measured in the first year of the report card.  A child’s academic achievement is closely connected to the education level of his or her parents, especially the mother. That’s partly because better-educated mothers are less likely to experience poverty, one of the greatest challenges to educational attainment, but also because parents who are better educated are better equipped to support their children at school.

Library books borrowed per capita remained at 2.7 per person in San Joaquin County for the second year in a row. Statewide, Californians borrow about 6.1 books per capita.

The previous two report cards provided measures of third-grade English language arts proficiency and showed that just one in three San Joaquin County third-graders scores at or above grade level in reading proficiency, significantly below the statewide average of 46 percent.

Because of changes in the state’s standardized testing system, third-grade English language arts proficiency results for 2014 are not available. But this year’s report card offers a new analysis of reading proficiency across racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups based on 2013 test results.

That analysis shows that San Joaquin County children lag behind their peers statewide in every ethnic and racial group. For example, 71 percent of Asian students statewide scored at or above grade level in 2013, versus 42 percent in San Joaquin County. For whites, the rates were 62 percent statewide and 49 percent countywide. For blacks, the rates were 34 percent statewide and 25 percent countywide. And for Latinos, the rates were 37 percent statewide and 24 percent countywide.

Read 2014 San Joaquin Literacy Report Card

About the University of the Pacific Beyond Our Gates initiative

Beyond Our Gates represents University of the Pacific's commitment to work with community partners to improve the social and economic health in Stockton and San Joaquin County. University President Pamela A. Eibeck convened a series of public forums in 2010 to discuss the community's most urgent problems and to begin considering solutions. Through these continuing conversations, education emerged as a pressing challenge and the most promising means of enhancing quality of life. Beyond Our Gates strives to do that through such projects as Reading by Third, Tomorrow Project academies for elementary and high school students, and through ongoing community engagement via the Beyond Our Gates Community Council. The Reading by Third initiative was recognized by the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading with a 2013 Community Pacesetter award. For more information, visit

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