NYC wants to change the way students learn to read. Here’s how.
Mayor Eric Adams has made literacy a priority, promising to review the teaching of reading in New York schools.
Educators agree that this is a critical moment. Even before the pandemic, less than half of students in grades 3 through 8 were reading at the grade level, according to state tests. Now the interrupted learning has only heightened concerns that pupils have been knocked down.
To preview some of the initiatives expected for the coming year, Chalkbeat brought together a group on Aug. 10 steeped in New York City’s literacy push from a variety of perspectives — a senior Department of Education official, an expert academic, a principal, a teacher and a parent of dyslexic children. (See below for video of the event.)
Carolyne Quintana, Department of Education Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, shared some insights on the city’s efforts to incorporate more phonics into K-2 classrooms across the five boroughs, as well that more training for teachers. Some smaller-scale initiatives: Two new elementary school programs will target children with reading difficulties, including dyslexia, and approximately 160 elementary and middle schools will receive additional training on literacy strategies and different types of interventions for struggling readers.
In terms of the big picture, one goal is to make educators more aware of reading challenges so that they “understand what the different and varied needs of students with reading challenges may be,” Quintana said.
To that end, the Department of Education is offering all K-12 teachers a two-hour Made by Dyslexia training and will have K-12 literacy coaches, unlike before. where coaches were provided for classes from kindergarten to grade 2. (At the same time, however, the city is reducing the number of literacy coaches from 500 to 200.)
Much of this work, however, takes time, and questions remain about the many struggling readers who may not have challenges as severe as dyslexia, or who may be in older grades, than the new push. phonetics will not reach.
Katie Pace Miles, an associate professor at Brooklyn College, CUNY, offered a possible solution: intensify tutoring programs with teacher-in-training.
Last year, CUNY trained 650 students from schools of education in the university system in “evidence and research-based programs” and placed them in schools where they worked one-on-one with first- and second-grade students. year, explained Miles, who is the academic advisor. for Reading Rescue and the creator of Reading Ready, both of which are reading intervention programs.
“These are readers who may not be dyslexic people,” she said. “Some of them may be. We’ll know more once we’ve done that tutoring, and we have evidence from the assessments.
Scaling up such a program is crucial, she said.
“It’s a really important thing that we have to do because the urgency is immediate. This is right now for students coming out of the pandemic. We can’t wait for a school to jump in with the phonics program,” Miles said. “These students need the interventions right away.”
If money weren’t an issue, here are some other ideas that the panelists said would be most helpful when it comes to teaching reading:
- “If we had all the money in the world, we would be able to pay teachers to come a week or two earlier than they do now…and receive the kind of intense literacy training that they’re all craving,” Darlene said. Cameron, director of the STAR Academy in Manhattan. “It can be difficult to have the time to provide this type of training, and I think administrators could use this type of training and support as well.”
- Naomi Peña, a parent who is part of the Literacy Academy Collective that is starting a program at PS 161 in the Bronx for students with dyslexia, wants to include parents more thoroughly.
“How can we incorporate them because right now the model is kind of shaming parents, saying, ‘Are you reading to your child? You’re not reading enough,'” Peña said. also how we interact with parents, not shaming them, but understanding that we’re in this together, and we want to raise your child and also support you.”
- More in-depth training is something many teachers yearn for, said Mercedes Valentin-Davila, a kindergarten and dual-language teacher at PS 24 in Brooklyn, who recently overhauled her literacy teaching by incorporating more phonics.
“We want to learn. We want to be trained,” she said. “But it’s not just about us training for a week and then throwing ourselves in there, and that’s it. There must be a partnership between professionals, researchers and scientists.
She wants to see a community formed around literacy that includes these experts as well as teachers, administrators and parents.
“I feel like there is always this separation, and I feel like if we had all the money in the world, we would not only be formed, but we would be a real community,” said she declared. “Literacy is synonymous with equity, and that means we all need to work together.
Amy Zimmer is Chalkbeat New York’s bureau chief. Contact Amy at [email protected]