New York Is Forcing Schools to Change How They Teach Children to Read (2023)


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Half of children in grades three to eight fail reading tests. The city’s schools chancellor, who has faulted the current approach, will begin rolling out new curriculums next year.

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New York Is Forcing Schools to Change How They Teach Children to Read (1)

By Troy Closson

(Video) Why did schools stop teaching kids how to read?

Hundreds of public schools have been teaching reading the wrong way for the last two decades, leaving an untold number of children struggling to acquire a crucial life skill, according to New York City’s schools chancellor.

Now, David C. Banks, the chancellor, wants to “sound the alarm” and is planning to force the nation’s largest school system to take a new approach.

On Tuesday, Mr. Banks announced major changes to reading instruction in an aim to tackle a persistent problem: About half of city children in grades three through eight are not proficient in reading. Black, Latino and low-income children fare even worse.

In a recent interview, Mr. Banks said that the city’s approach had been “fundamentally flawed,” and had failed to follow the science of how students learn to read.

“It’s not your fault. It’s not your child’s fault. It was our fault,” Mr. Banks said. “This is the beginning of a massive turnaround.”

Over the next two years, the city’s 32 local school districts will adopt one of three curriculums selected by their superintendents. The curriculums use evidence-supported practices, including phonics — which teaches children how to decode letter sounds — and avoidstrategiesmany reading experts say are flawed, like teaching children to usepicture clues to guess words.

The move represents a sea change in a city where principals have historically retained authority over approaches to teaching at their individual schools.

Half of the districts will begin the program in September; the others will start in 2024. Waivers to opt out will only be considered for schools where more than 85 percent of students are proficient in reading, a threshold that only about 20 schools meet.

The nation’s biggest district joins a push to change reading

The move represents the most significant reading overhaul in New York City since the early 2000s, when some of the programs that the chancellor is now trying to uproot were first ushered in. It will immediately place the city at the forefront of a growing national movement to reform reading instruction.

Experts, lawmakers and families have pushed to abandon strategies that a mass of research shows do not work for all students and to embrace a set of practices known as the “science of reading.”

The stakes are clear: Children who cannot read well by third grade are at a disadvantage. They are more likely to drop out of high school, face incarceration and live in poverty as adults.

Still, curriculum reform is an enormous undertaking. The challenges are perhaps nowhere more apparent than in New York City, a sprawling system of some 700 elementary schools and a large population of disadvantaged children.

(Video) The One About... Forcing Schools to Change How They Teach Children to Read

The city has been among the top markets for a beloved “balanced literacy” curriculum. The approach aims to nurture a passion for books, but has been criticized at times for including too little systematic instruction in core reading skills. Mr. Banks called the approach an “old way that has failed far too many kids.”


The new plan is backed by the teachers’ union, but has attracted immediate skepticism from some teachers, who often say major changes come with insufficient training. It has also drawn ire from the city’s principals’ union, which has called a uniform curricular approach “pedagogically unsound” in such a large system.

But New York City has never offered the “the right blueprint” on reading, Mr. Banks said. It has left teachers blamed for failures that were not their own, he said, and families without answers to what went wrong when their children fell behind.

As national reading scores have stagnated, nearly 20 stateshaveprioritized phonics alongside work to expand student’s background knowledge, vocabulary and oral language skills, which research shows most children need to grasp how to decode words and understand what they read.

“I’m thrilled,” Susan Neuman, an early literacy development expert and a former U.S. assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, said of the city’s plans.

“This is a bold effort,” she said. “And I think it’s very much the right way to go.”

Changing reading instruction will mean changing teachers

If New York City’s announcement is the starting line, a challenging road lies ahead.

Research shows that a new curriculum alone does not boost student outcomes. Major changes require teachers to reshape their existing practices and understanding of a subject through intensive training and coaching. Otherwise, they may lean on old instincts.

Even supporters of the plan admit that much can go wrong. Some worry that the other side of literacy — writing — needs more substantial attention. Or that unaddressed pandemic learning losses could hinder progress.

And addressing how elementary schools teach reading to younger students will not help older students who missed learning those skills.

(Video) Failing literacy levels in NYC schools: Chancellor David Banks discusses new curriculum

The city will also need to overcome the frustrations of many school leaders over the plan’s rollout, as well as the fervent belief that some have in the programs they now use.

Hundreds of elementary schools in 2019 used a popular balanced literacy curriculum from Teachers College known as Units of Study, a report by two local news outlets, Chalkbeatand The City, shows. The curriculum has received failing marks from one major organization that rates program quality. But many school leaders value its attention to developing children’s passion for books, as well as its robust professional development offerings for teachers.

Several city principals have defended that curriculum publicly. Another Brooklyn principal, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, called the rollout demoralizing and said their school had seen good results from a modified version of Units of Study paired with a phonics program.

Henry Rubio, head of the principals’ union, said a recent survey showed that three of four school leaders were “dissatisfied” with the plan’s rollout.

“It’s the lack of respect for the community and school leader to get buy-in to make this work,” Mr. Rubio said. “What does that do to trust and morale?”

Schools will have a limited menu of reading curriculums

Under the plan, all school districts will adopt one of three curriculums that have received high marks from national curriculum review groups.

Carolyne Quintana, the deputy chancellor of teaching and learning, said officials weighed factors like text quality and accessibility for students, before narrowing down options with a small group of superintendents.


The three choices have some significant differences:

  • Wit & Wisdom is known for its robust focus on knowledge building, which is important for helping students understand what they read. It does not cover foundational skills like phonics, and would therefore be paired with a phonics program like Fundations, which many schools already use. Baltimore schools, where about 60 percent of children are low-income, reported modest gains after adopting it.

  • Expeditionary Learning has an explicit phonics program, and includes texts that draw from concepts in other subjects such as social studies and a more robust writing component. It also has significant amounts of extra teaching materials and guidance thatschools may need additional help to absorb. The curriculum is used in Detroit, which has seen some progress since its rollout.

  • Into Reading is the most traditional option, a “basal” program that uses texts written specifically to teach reading. It was selected by most districts in the rollout’s first phase, though some teachers and principals have worried overa recent New York University report that found its content “likely reinforces stereotypes and portrays people of color in inferior and destructive ways.” Ms. Quintana said the company has assured officials it is “adamantly working on making revisions.”

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Mr. Banks said he believes the changes will, ultimately, “make life easier for everyone.”

Many teachers spend long hours searching for — or even creating — materials to fill gaps in existing curriculum. And when children lack stable housing or change schools often for other reasons, it can be tougher to jump back in when classrooms use different approaches.

The chancellor has found one key ally in Michael Mulgrew, the president of the teacher’s union, who has long advocated a more uniform citywide approach. “We are supportive of this idea,” Mr.Mulgrew said.

“But there will be pessimism throughout schools,” he added.

Will it be the end of the reading wars?

The shift marks the latest — and what the chancellor says ought to be the last — major swing of the pendulum in the city’s reading instruction.

Twenty years ago, during the Bloomberg administration, Chancellor Joel Klein ushered in the era of balanced literacy at city schools, until a lack of progress led him to pilot other approaches. Years later, another chancellor, Carmen Fariña, a believer in independent reading time and having students choose their own books, again encouraged schools to adopt those strategies.

Richard Carranza called the city’s patchwork of practices unfeasible when he led the system, but his tenure overlapped with the first year of the pandemic and reading moved to the back burner.

Mr. Banks, and the mayor, Eric Adams, who has dyslexia, has said reading would be one of the top priorities for the administration. Already, Mr. Banks has required schools to adopt phonics programs and opened several new programs for students with dyslexia.

Teacher training on the new programs will begin this week and continue over the summer, and coaching will continue during the school year. The goal is for teachers to return in the fall with their first unit fully planned, officials said. Early childhood providers will also receive training in the coming months.

The first stage of rollout will include several areas where children have struggled most, such as Harlem (District 5), the northeast Bronx (12), East New York (19) Brownsville (23) and southeast Queens (32).

Sharon Roberts, a special education teacher at P.S. 9, the Walter Reed School in Queens, said she was “hopeful for the first time” in years.

Ms. Roberts said that it has long been left up to her “to fill the gap” and find materials that work for her students’ needs. But for the plan to be successful, she said teachers need to be “treated with respect again.”

“We’re tired of being blamed for so many things that are out of our reach,” she said.


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New York Is Forcing Schools to Change How They Teach Children to Read? ›

New York Is Forcing Schools to Change How They Teach Children to Read. Half of children in grades three to eight fail reading tests. The city's schools chancellor

schools chancellor
List of New York City Schools chancellors. Individuals who have led the New York City school system include: David C. Banks 2022–present. › New_York_City_Schools_Chancellor
, who has faulted the current approach, will begin rolling out new curriculums next year.

What is the new reading program in NYC? ›

The way reading is taught in New York City public schools is about to make a 180-degree shift, from a system that teaches children to use picture clues to guess words to a phonics-based system that teaches kids to decode letters.

Does NY State teach phonics? ›

Schools will now adopt one of three curriculums using phonics, which teach how to decode letter sounds instead of more recently employed methods like using picture clues to guess words. Half of the districts will begin the program in September; the others will start in 2024.

What is NYC reads? ›

“'New York City Reads' is a historic curriculum shift in the largest school district in the nation that will bring proven science-of-reading and phonics-based methods to all of our public-school students, starting with our early childhood programs and our elementary schools.

Who controls schools in New York? ›

New York is one of ten major U.S. cities in which the educational system is under the control of the mayor rather than an elected school board.

What is New Worlds reading program? ›

The New Worlds Reading Initiative is a free Florida literacy program for K-5 public or charter school students currently reading below grade level.

What is the daily 5 reading program? ›

Daily 5 is a literacy management system developed by Joan Moser and Gail Boucher, 2 sisters from America. The system has 5 components- read to self, read to someone, listen to reading, work on writing and word work. Students are explicitly taught how to work within each component to achieve success.

Why don t schools teach phonics anymore? ›

After several decades of so-called reading wars, where dubious theories led educators to abandon the phonics method in favor of a variety of divergent — and often unsuccessful — literacy learning techniques, a growing number of states and districts are right back where they started.

Can you teach reading without phonics? ›

Yes, but proponents of phonics sometimes overstate how much more effective it is to teach kids the sounds that letters make. “Phonics is marginally better,” said Timothy Shanahan, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an expert on the research in reading instruction.

Is phonics mandatory? ›

The new national curriculum requires schools to teach children to apply phonic knowledge and skills as the route to decode words.

Can you turn on read in New York? ›

You are not allowed to turn on a red light in New York City unless a sign that permits it is posted.

Can anyone read in the New York Public Library? ›

Free for All New Yorkers

Cards are free for anyone who lives, works, attends school, or pays property tax in New York State. Out-of-state visitors can apply for a temporary card.

What is the best way to read the New York Times? ›

How to Read The New York Times
  1. You must acquire the newspaper. ...
  2. Peruse the day's top stories. ...
  3. Begin to analyze the stories you select for class attention. ...
  4. As you read through the stories, make a decision about whether you need to take a note or two or clip the story with important items marked.

Is New York a school of choice? ›

New York families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling. We'll also discuss learning pods.

What is the largest school district in NY? ›

Covering nearly 700 square miles, Saranac Lake Central School District is the state's largest school district. Below is the list of the 50 largest school districts in New York State by the area they cover.

Who funds public schools in NYC? ›

New York City imposes a modified local income tax on residents, a business and financial tax, and a tax on commercial rent, revenues from which are raised to support the City's budget including schools.

Who is eligible for New Worlds reading? ›

To be eligible for New Worlds Reading, a child must not yet be reading on grade level, and must be a K-5 student enrolled in a Florida public or district-sponsored charter school.

What is Super kids reading program? ›

Superkids is a comprehensive English language arts curriculum crafted for grades K–2 using evidence-based literacy practices. This proven-effective program follows a unique systematic and explicit instructional path through engaging, increasingly complex text.

Who owns New Worlds reading? ›

The New Worlds Reading Scholarship, administered by Step Up For Students, was created to help public school students in grades K-5 who struggle with reading.

What is the Burst reading program? ›

To summarize, BURST®: Reading is an intervention program designed to provide supplemental instruction in early literacy skills to elementary grades students who have not yet mastered grade-level reading skills.

Is really great reading a dyslexia program? ›

The Really Great Reading approach contains critical, evidence-based components of phonics for dyslexia instruction. Our explicit, systematic, engaging, multisensory, and developmentally appropriate programs teach students the key skills they need to become efficient and accurate decoders.

What is the America Reads program? ›

America Reads

Launched in October 1997, the program seeks to engage eligible Federal Work-Study students in providing tutorial services to children in grades K-5. Tutors are trained to help students become proficient in language arts for their respective grade level.

What are the disadvantages of phonics? ›

Research shows two disadvantages to phonics. The first disadvantage is good phonics instruction can not be regulated, it depends on the teachers. A teacher's knowledge of phonics affects their ability to teach phonics so if a teacher does no know or understand phonics they will have a hard time teaching phonics.

What year did they stop teaching phonics? ›

By 1930, phonics – meaning explicit teaching of the code – has been abandoned in most of the nation's classrooms. 1930 – 1965: Whole Word becomes the dominant top-down method for teaching reading in the United States.

What is the phonics teaching controversy? ›

Phonics, a method of correlating sounds with letters, may not seem like a controversial concept, but it's anathema in some academic circles. Many teachers dismiss the practice of sounding out words as old-fashioned drudgery that prevents children from loving literature.

Can a non-verbal child learn to read? ›

2) Expect that those who are non-verbal or minimally verbal can learn to read with adequate and appropriate instruction. No one is 'too low', 'too old', or 'too non- verbal' for literacy instruction or related goals to be in their IEP.

Is there an alternative to phonics? ›

Common alternatives to phonics include: Whole Word / Look and Say / Flash Cards. Whole Language. Native / Natural Reading.

What is the Lucy Calkins reading method? ›

In a classic Calkins classroom, teachers read aloud from children's literature; students then chose “just right” books, which fit their interests and ability. The focus was more on stories — theme, character, plot — less on sounding out words.

Is letters and sounds being phased out? ›

Letters and Sounds 2007 will remain on the validated list until 2022 to allow schools using it the time to transition.

Do Montessori schools use phonics? ›

Montessori's approach to reading is heavily rooted in phonics teaching, and this phonics is taught with an emphasis on a sensory-led approach. For example, students might be encouraged to trace letters in varying materials, to promote a sensory form of learning and improve their fine motor skills.

Is letters and sounds a scheme? ›

Letters and Sounds is a systematic approach for teaching children to read using phonics. It is used in many schools in England, but is not a mandatory part of the National Curriculum. It is split into six phases, from starting to learn about sounds at nursery to becoming fluent readers around age 7.

Is it illegal to text at a red light in New York? ›

Texting at a Red Light: A Legal Loophole

Under New York law, technically operating your phone at a red light is a hole in the state's texting regulations. The state regulations explicitly state that a vehicle must be in motion in order for cell phone use to constitute a violation.

Is it illegal to talk on the phone while driving in New York? ›

In New York, it is against the law to use a handheld cell phone while driving. This includes talking on the phone, texting, emailing, and browsing the internet. You could get a ticket if you do any of these things while your vehicle is in motion.

Can you turn right on Ted in NY? ›

Can you make a right turn on red in NYC? In many places, it's legal to make a right turn at a red light as long as you yield to oncoming traffic first. However, in NYC, making a right turn on red is illegal unless the traffic signal posts otherwise.

Can you eat in New York Public Library? ›

The Library Café by Amy's Bread welcomes visitors and scholars alike to enjoy coffee, pastries, and more during your visit to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building! The menu at Amy's Bread rotates daily and features an array of handmade pastries, unique sandwiches, healthy salads, decadent sweets, and more.

Can you just walk into the New York Public Library? ›

Please Note: Some of the Schwarzman Building's reading rooms, including the Library's historic Rose Main Reading Room, are open to the public for research and quiet study without an appointment while some collections require advance consultation with staff and/or an appointment to view.

Can you get a New York library card without living there? ›

Non-residents may be issued a visitor's library card on-site,with a three month expiration date. In order to qualify for a three month visitor account applicants must present photo id and proof of address (i.e. passport and utility bill) for their locality.

Why is every book #1 New York Times? ›

Nevertheless, the most important reason for a book to be a New York Times best seller is still the fact that there are hundreds of best-seller lists, and a book only needs to appear on any one of them to qualify. The list will sometimes say “best-selling author” instead.

What reading level is the New York Times? ›

The level of reading in The New York Times is about a high school tenth-grade reading level. This means that the content is written for people around 16 years of age or older, and it is similar to 60 on the Flesch scale.

Do people still read the New York Times? ›

The New York Times (the Times or NYT) is a daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership reported in 2022 to comprise 740,000 paid print subscribers, and 8.6 million paid digital subscribers. It also is a producer of popular podcasts such as The Daily.

What is the hardest school to get into in New York? ›

Columbia University in

What rank is New York in education? ›

New York also ranked first for the highest per-pupil spending, and ranked fifth for the highest math scores. Here are the top 10 best public school systems in 2023, according to Scholaroo. Here are the top 10 worst public school systems in 2023, according to Scholaroo.

What is the hardest school to get into in NYC? ›

Based on data from the U.S. Department of Education, of the 81 colleges or universities in New York with available data, Columbia University, located in New York City, ranks as the hardest school to get into.

What is the #1 high school in NY State? ›

Top 10 Best New York Public High Schools (2023) For the 2023 school year, there are 154 public high schools serving 83,770 students in New York, NY. The top ranked public high schools in New York, NY are Fiorello H Laguardia High School, Stuyvesant High School and Bard High School Early College.

What is NYC best school district? ›

Half Hollow Hills Central School District

DIX HILLS, NY, 35 Niche users give it an average review of 4.3 stars. Featured Review: Parent says Best school district in New York!

Where is the best school district in New York? ›

Mamaroneck Union Free School District is the best school district in New York state. The district comprises four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school serving around 5,300 students from the village of Mamaroneck and two other Westchester County communities.

How do NYC schools get money? ›

Fair Student Funding (FSF) is the main source of money for most schools. With input from the School Leadership Team, principals decide how to spend these funds to meet basic educational needs. FSF is based on the number of students enrolled at each school and the needs of those students.

Who owns NYC schools? ›

The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) is the department of the government of New York City that manages the city's public school system.

How much does NYC spend per student? ›

As NYC is expected to spend $38K per student, budget watchdog calls for prioritizing 'critical services' Students at P.S. 89 in Brooklyn await their families at the end of the school day during the 2020-2021 school year. Per-student spending is expected to grow to nearly $38,000 in the 2023-24 school year.

What is the read Right program? ›

Read Right is a highly structured reading intervention program designed to produce rapid reading improvement for children, teens, and adults regardless of labels that have been attached—RTI, Title I, English language learners, or special education (including dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, autistic, etc.).

What is the Let's read program? ›

Let's Read provides disadvantaged parents and carers with reading books and support to encourage them to have fun reading with their young children. The program also encourages children to develop a love of books and the ability to name letters and play with the sounds of words.

What is the reading ready program? ›

i-Ready Reading includes: Lessons that teach foundational skills such as phonological awareness, high-frequency words, and phonics to help students understand their connection to reading. Vocabulary lessons at earlier grade levels that teach words researchers have identified as the most essential to reading success.

What is the reading program called Star? ›

STudent Achievement in Reading (STAR) is a national professional development initiative for adult reading instruction created by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE).

What is the failure free reading program? ›

Failure Free Reading is a language development program designed to improve vocabulary, fluency, word recognition, and reading comprehension for students in kindergarten through grade 12 who score in the bottom 15% on standardized tests and who have not responded to conventional beginning reading instruction.

What are the four reading programs? ›

The Four Blocks Reading Program, or Four Blocks Framework, is a balanced literacy program that has been in use in elementary schools since 1989. Central to the program is the use on a daily basis of four elements of literacy instruction -- guided reading, self selected reading, writing and working with words.

What is read 180 reading program? ›

READ 180® is a reading program designed for struggling readers who are reading 2 or more years below grade level. It provides blended learning instruction (i.e., combining digital media with traditional classroom instruction), student assessment, and teacher professional development.

Does reading recovery still exist? ›

Reading Recovery has a strong tradition of success with the lowest-achieving children. Developed in New Zealand 30 years ago, Reading Recovery now also operates in most states in the United States, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

What is the spark reading program? ›

Spark Reading for Kids is a library of short texts with embedded comprehension quizzes. The texts span a variety of topics -- including both fiction and nonfiction -- and are categorized by grade level, from second to eighth. Students can browse through the texts by topic or grade level, and choose one to read.

Why are schools using i-Ready? ›

The purpose of i-Ready is to provide personalized instruction and support the needs of all learners. i-Ready supports teachers as they plan instruction, set goals with students, and assess learner progress.

What is magnetic reading? ›

Magnetic Reading is a Grades 3–5 reading comprehension program that connects the art of teaching with the Science of Reading to develop successful, proficient, and confident readers.

Is i-Ready a good reading program? ›

Studies show that Grades K–8 students who use i-Ready show greater improvements in math and reading than those who do not.

What grade is star reading test? ›

It lists the STAR Reading scale score ranges for below-, on-, and above-grade level performance for grades K–12 on the Common Core State Standards for Reading, including scale score ranges for on-grade level classifications for each of the three trimesters.

What grade level is star early literacy? ›


offers two computer-adaptive assessments of reading skills: STAR Early Literacy and STAR Reading™. STAR Early Literacy, a criterion-referenced assessment for students in grades pre-Kindergarten to 3, measures students' skills in seven content areas essential to reading readiness.

How do you pass the star reading? ›

8 Awesome STAAR Reading Test Strategies
  1. Strategy #1: Important vocabulary words to know.
  2. Strategy #2: Don't forget the title is important too.
  3. Strategy #3: Number the paragraphs.
  4. Strategy #4: Read the questions first.
  5. Strategy #5: Now comes the passage.
  6. Strategy #6: Back to those questions (and answer choices).
Mar 22, 2017


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