New York governor pushes for overhaul of reading education as test scores lag


ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday that she will push for schools in the state to reemphasize phonics in literacy education programs, a potential overhaul that comes as many states revamp curriculums amid low reading scores.

The proposal would require the state education department to draft guidelines centered on the so-called science of reading, a phonics-based approach to literacy education, that school districts would have to follow by September 2025.

The Legislature would need to approve the plan before it could go into effect.

The change would see New York join a national movement away from an education method known as balanced literacy, which focuses on introducing children to books they find interesting — often at the expense of dedicated phonics instruction, which focuses on the relationship between sounds and letters.

New York, like other states, has seen reading proficiency scores dip after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools and forced classes online. Last year, data show, fewer than half of third grade students in New York read at proficient levels in state tests.

“Reading is the foundation of our education system, but New York State is currently not meeting basic reading proficiency levels,” Hochul, a Democrat, said in a statement. “We cannot continue to allow our kids to fall further behind by utilizing outdated and discredited approaches to reading comprehension.”

New York City, home to the nation’s largest school district, began phasing in required phonics-based reading curriculums for all elementary schools last year.

More than 30 other states have also transitioned toward science of reading programs, the governor’s office said. The approach has been credited for helping Mississippi dramatically improve its reading scores in recent years.

Hochul’s plan includes $10 million to train teachers on science of reading instruction as well as an expansion of credentialing programs in state and city public colleges for teachers focused on science of reading.

The governor announced the proposal as part of her agenda for the state’s Legislative session, which began Wednesday and will end in June.

In remarks to reporters, Will Barclay, Republican leader of the State Assembly, appeared open to the governor’s plan but said he would wait until a bill is filed before taking a formal position.

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