The Education Trust–New York finds it promising that the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) and the Board of Regents have embraced the science of reading and are prioritizing the matter of literacy through a P-20 initiative. The recent presentation and discussion at the September Board of Regents meeting provided an emerging vision for literacy instruction across the state and the robust discussion and thought leadership are in direct alignment with recommendations included in the Ed Trust–NY report, A Call to Action: The State of Early Literacy in New York.
Specifically, Ed Trust–NY appreciates the explicit connection made between the science of reading, strong social-emotional learning, and the state’s Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CRSE) framework. Enhancing literacy instruction for more students contributes to improved social-emotional learning (SEL) and a sense of belonging in school. Bolstering SEL and fostering culturally responsive and sustaining education (CRSE) can also result in enhanced reading proficiency. Consequently, it’s important to recognize that schools need not choose between prioritizing literacy instruction and improving school climate; rather, both should be integrated to synergistically enhance holistic student outcomes.
NYSED’s vision for literacy is promising. Yet too many districts across the state are not aligning literacy efforts to this vision or existing state guidance. We are hopeful that new state guidance and resources regarding literacy instruction are helpful to districts. However, we worry that with no obligation for districts to follow this guidance, reading outcomes will not improve, particularly in historically underserved communities – rural and urban.
It is worth noting that many of the literacy resources shared by NYSED during the Board of Regents September 2023 meeting have been available to districts for several years. Yet too many schools continue to use non-evidence based instructional literacy materials and over half of the state’s 3rd graders are not reading proficiently. In order to improve outcomes, more decisive and deliberate action is required from state leaders.
Comprehensive and bold leadership must include the following state strategies and investments:
- Incentivize the use of evidence-based instructional materials especially in districts with low reading proficiency rates
- Provide high-quality, evidence-based professional learning for educators along with support for reading coaches and increased technical assistance to schools
- Improve teacher preparation programs by requiring coursework aligned to the science of reading for aspiring teachers and upgrading reading credential assessments to measure understanding of key science of reading concepts
- Build the capacity of families, early childhood providers, and expanded learning providers to partner with schools in promoting reading development through home-based family resources that promote vocabulary development; summer and afterschool literacy programs targeted to students most in need; and early screenings to identify developmental delays
- Improve public transparency by requiring NYSED to collect and share information on district reading instructional strategies and ensuring districts publish a publicly accessible and comprehensive K-5 literacy plan, as well as regular updates on each student’s literacy progress beginning in kindergarten
- Provide funding and support for aligned and complementary programs such as High Impact Tutoring (A7788) which is a proven strategy for improving reading outcomes and the Dyslexia Task Force Act (A133/S2599) which would examine screening methods to identify Dyslexia and other developmental delays
We look forward to continuing to work with state and local stakeholders to ensure all New York students have the literacy skills necessary for a brighter future.