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Booked on phonics

New York Teacher

This May, New York City joined a nationwide shift in the teaching of reading when Schools Chancellor David C. Banks announced that all elementary schools over the next two years must adopt one of three evidence-based curricula that are grounded in phonics and foundational literacy skills.

For 25 years, Banks said, New York City teachers had been given the “wrong playbook.” And yet our teachers would often be blamed when kids did not become successful readers.

The shift to the “science of reading” builds on decades of research in education and neuroscience that point to effective strategies for teaching children to read. Researchers have found that most children need explicit instruction on the building blocks of reading. Word recognition and rote memorization just don’t work. The phonics-based approach to reading has proven especially crucial for students with dyslexia and other struggling readers.

Banks tackled another problem unique to New York City at the same time: Until now, principals got to decide what reading curriculum to use in their schools. This “local control” of curriculum led to a hodgepodge of curricula and wide variation in what and how students are taught to read.

But the implementation of new reading curricula in a school system as large and diverse as New York City’s is not going to be easy. It is incumbent on the DOE to provide the professional learning, resources and materials that educators need for a successful launch in September, as well as ongoing support and coaching in their schools.

The DOE, to its credit, agreed to our proposal that the UFT Teacher Center take the lead in providing professional development. Our Teacher Center experts will strive to ensure that educators receive the guidance and training they need — adapted to the students they teach — to begin this new chapter with confidence.

Related Topics: Pedagogy