New York City to Change ‘Fundamentally Flawed’ Method of Teaching Reading in Schools

Learning to Read Explainer FILE - A third-grade student reads to the rest of her class at
Ron Harris, File/AP

New York City’s schools chancellor announced on Tuesday that 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,” The New York Times reported.

Chancellor David C. Banks said the city is going to make major changes to how reading is taught in order to address the fact that half of city children in grades three through eight are not proficient in reading, according to the report.  Banks noted in a recent interview that the city’s reading instruction methods are “fundamentally flawed” and fail to use scientifically proven ways of teaching students to read. 

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

The city’s 32 school districts will begin using one of the three curriculums selected by superintendents over the next two years, according to the report. The programs reportedly employ “evidence-supported practices, including phonics — which teaches children how to decode letter sounds — and avoid strategies many reading experts say are flawed, like teaching children to use picture clues to guess words,” the report states. 

“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,” according to the report. 

Only twenty schools were able to show that more than 85 percent of their students are proficient in reading, a measure needed to opt out of the new programs. The program rollout will begin in areas with the lowest reading scores, including Harlem, northeast Bronx, East New York, Brownsville, and southeast Queens, the report states.


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