Start your

education civil rights health care social justice

🎉  11 leading organizations join NAACP as co-petitioners. See Updates for details. 🙏

Campaign powered by
ogo isolated wide small2.001

Support the Oakland NAACP's campaign to improve reading outcomes.

Improve literacy rates and lower the number of referrals to special education by providing research-backed curriculum, teacher resources and student support for transitional kindergarten through 5th Grade for public schools in the Oakland Unified School District.

Issue Area: Education     |     Campaign Type: Local (Oakland, CA)


Campaign Goal

This campaign seeks to provide the support and training educators need to succeed, as well as the needed student resources to ensure that all students are reading at grade level.


The Harm Caused by Under-Investing in Literacy

Young people in Oakland, California face dramatic inequity. 

Our students are not receiving the free and appropriate education they need to successfully navigate college, careers, societal institutions, or opportunities to be of service to the Oakland community. Our Black, Latino and Pacific Islander students in the Oakland Unified School District ("OUSD") are four times more likely to be reading multiple years below grade level than our white students (Figure 1). Without the ability to read, they are denied learning and denied the opportunity to identify, cultivate, and leverage their talents in whichever way they choose. The failure of OUSD to educate our students has resulted in reduced earning potential, racialized health disparities and communities vulnerable to gentrification.

Figure 1. Reading Inventory (SRI) scores of 3rd, 4th and 5th grade levels by ethnicity, 2019-20 (Fall). [1]

While 16% of white students are reading multiple years below grade level, over 60% of African American, Latino and Pacific Islander students are reading multiple years below grade level.

In the 2018-19 academic year, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) released the following data [2]:

  • When it came to percent of 8th grade students who were ready for high school, 80.9% of African American male youth were assessed as not ready, while 47.7% of white male youth were assessed as not ready.

Research highlights the value of reading interventions at the first grade level, since if you don't close the gap early, the Matthew Effect takes hold. In the words of researcher Keith Stanovich, who wrote about the Matthew Effect, "Slow reading acquisition has cognitive, behavioral, and motivational consequences that slow the development of other cognitive skills and inhibit performance on many academic tasks."[3]

As this literacy gap widens over time, it robs students of future opportunities, impacts public safety and correlates to increased incarceration rates. The fact that 85 percent of America’s juvenile offenders have reading difficulties and that approximately 40 percent of America’s juvenile offenders at a 10th grade level read below a 4th grade level drives this point home. [4]

Moreover when it comes to juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system, statistics show [4]:

  • 85% have reading difficulties.
  • Approximately 40% at a 10th grade level read below a 4th grade level.
  • Between 30% to 50% have learning disabilities.


Interventions Work
Research has shown that classroom instruction can "potentially help over 90 percent of early elementary students read on grade level, at least in terms of word reading ability; this percentage may increase to 97–99 percent when secondary intensive intervention is provided by experts. In fact, the central premise of Response to Intervention is that reading difficulties can be prevented for most children through well-implemented evidence-based early instruction and intervention. Contrast these percentages with rates of children whose reading comprehension scores are below basic on the fourth grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (33 percent on average, but up to 53 percent for Black students)." [5]

If Oakland values equity, it is clear that more literacy resources and support need to be directed to support (1) students earlier on in their public education, and (2) educators who support students with literacy.



The Change that the Campaign Seeks

There are multiple actions that the OUSD Board of Education (OUSD Board) must take to improve literacy rates in Oakland public schools including:

  • Providing educators with a literacy curriculum that has significant evidence of contributing to students' academic success (including African-American students and English Language Learners) from transitional kindergarten through fifth grade and is manageable for educators to fully implement within the bounds of their contracted hours.
  • An elevated role, dedicated to student literacy within the OUSD leadership.
  • More resources to support students reading below grade level.
  • Ongoing access to professional development for educators on teaching reading, classroom management, dyslexia identification and support, and how to run small groups - NOT just how to implement a specific curriculum.
  • Dyslexia screening for all students, K-2.
  • Better tracking of intervention supports and the resulting student outcomes, including piloting intervention programs.
  • Ensuring guidelines for the district’s human resources department to encourage the flow of educators into high-needs schools who have been trained on how to teach children to read using evidence-based reading methodologies.
  • Ensuring that the chosen curriculum currently reflects the diversity of Oakland's students or commits to adapting its content, in collaboration with local partners, with time-bound goals and future financial costs baked into any initial agreement.

For a detailed list of questions and answers about this literacy campaign, please view this online list.

The Oakland NAACP has drafted and submitted a formal administrative petition to the OUSD Board. Unlike the more common online petition (e.g., an administrative petition is a detailed document describing the problems it is addressing, the organizations and individuals in support of the petition, the authority to petition and the relief requested to address the problems.

Below is the full administrative petition, which has been filed with the OUSD Board:


Additionally, NAACP filed an Addendum to the petition listing the organizations, educational institutions and individuals that are in support of the petition. That Addendum is below:


[1] Oakland Unified School District Data Dashboard, Reading Inventory (SRI) by Student Groups: Ethnicity, Academic Year: 2019-20, Grade Levels: 3rd/4th/5th, Selected Test Status: Expected, Select Test Admin(s): Fall, Select Networks: All, View by Network/School/Pathway: District, Select Network/School/Pathway: All Schools, View By Grade Group: All Grades, Select Grade Groups: All Grades

[2] OUSD Public Reports:

[3] Stanovich, Keith E. "Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy." The Journal of Education, vol. 189, no. 1/2, Theory, Research, Reflection on Teaching and Learning (2008/2009), pp. 23-55 (33 pages). Sage Publications, Inc.:

[4] Literacy Development for Juvenile Offenders: A Project of Hope, 2003.

[5] Al Otaiba, Stephanie, and Barbara Foorman. "Early Literacy Instruction and Intervention." Community literacy journal vol. 3,1 (2008): 21-37:


Join the Oakland NAACP's literacy campaign and make a difference.

This campaign was started by concerned members of the Oakland NAACP and concerned literacy advocates. Support the campaign as a community member or organization and get periodic progress updates.

Support This Campaign

Support as a Champion

Make a great difference in the success of the campaign. As a Champion you will:

📰 Get regular campaign updates and insights on the strategy discussions.

📱 Premium content to share on social media.

❤️ Get your name listed as a campaign supporter.

🎖 Receive a special awareness badge for your social media accounts.

Campaign Videos

Want to do a campaign like this?

This campaign was started by a concerned community member just like you. backs campaigns like this one because we believe that communities have what it takes to change unjust policies, but often lack the support and funding they need to succeed. Click here to watch a 1-minute video overview.

If there's a social justice issue in your community that you feel needs to be addressed, take two minutes to share your thoughts with


Improve literacy rates and lower the number of referrals to special education by investing in students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade within the Oakland Unified School District.

Support our campaign.


490 43rd Street
Suite 350
Oakland, CA 94609

[email protected]

(510) 306-7494

ABOUT backs campaigns like this one because we believe that communities have what it takes to change unjust policies, but often lack the support and funding they need to succeed.

We’re on a mission to change that. Learn more here.