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Recovery plan boosts literacy, special education and college readiness

A literacy initiative that focuses on getting students reading on grade level by 3rd grade is the top priority of the city’s Academic Recovery Plan unveiled on July 8 by Mayor Bill de Blasio. The plan details exactly how the city will spend $630 million in federal funds to help students recover from the pandemic when they return to school buildings in the fall.

The city’s Academic Recovery Plan includes reducing class size in low-income areas, hiring more literacy coaches, adding supports for multilingual learners and screening to identify dyslexia and other learning challenges.

“The key to all education is literacy,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who joined the mayor at the City Hall press conference. “We’re going to have to do an analysis of all of our children to find out exactly where they're at and then have a plan in place. The only thing that matters is what happens inside of school buildings."
Mulgrew said the city’s recovery plan will help educators  face the obstacles that lie ahead. “Our teachers, psychologists and social workers are up to the challenge,” he said. “And the federal funds invested in this way will help them give students the help they need.”
Mulgrew said after the conference that the class size reduction component was not enough. “We’ll keep agitating to get this done citywide,” he said. For the rest of the plan, he said, “Our job now is execution, to stay on top of the Department of Education the way we did with the creating of building response teams, to get this accomplished.”

Other highlights of the plan include investments in special education, such as after-school and Saturday programs for students with Individual Education Plans, 800 additional special education pre-K seats and support for students 21 years and older as they figure out their job and career paths after school.

Students in general education classes will get a boost in college and career readiness, with free after-school college counseling for every junior and senior; assistance navigating the application process, available in multiple languages; new virtual Advanced Placement and other college prep courses; immigrant ambassadors to support college awareness for immigrant students in 30 high schools; and student success centers in 34 high schools to help students with their post-graduation plans. 

According to the plan, the city is committed to “leaving remote learning behind,” but nonetheless will spend millions to guarantee a digital device for every K-12 student. The plan calls for the city to  deliver 175,000 more devices, expand computer science programs to 400,000 students by 2024, and certify more than 5,000 educators in advanced computer science.

The city also plans to develop a curriculum by fall 2023  that reflects the diversity of its students. The “universal mosaic curriculum” described by the mayor will include the purchase of 9 million books that reflect the diversity.

Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter said at the news conference the development of the mosaic curriculum will be “a process, not a mandate” and it will be created in partnership with teachers, families and students. 

“It’s the smart thing to do,” said Mulgrew. “All of the students of the world are here. With this new curriculum, teachers won’t have to figure it out on their own. It’s a big undertaking but it will lift the burden off schools.”