NEW YORK (PIX11) — New York City public schools are getting hooked on phonics once again.
It’s is a seismic shift back to an old-school way of learning to read after evidence showed that the basic methods for teaching children to read for the last 30 to 40 years was just not working well.
Students will be learning to systematically pronounce letters and sounds in a systematic science-based way that has been proven to teach children of all abilities to read well. It may sound basic, but most schools simply stopped focusing on this in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Every teacher at P.S. 295 in Park Slope, Brooklyn is or has been retrained to emphasize an evidence-based literacy program with a focus on phonics. It is a pivot away from the “whole language” approach to reading, which essentially surrounded children with words, and emphasizing the meaning of those words.
“There was a time when our school system, if it did nothing else, everyone was going to learn to read,” Schools Chancellor David Banks said. “We’ve gotten away from that to our detriment.”
Banks was on hand to roll out the latest pilot program, which now exists at several schools. He and his team said it will become a systemwide standard in the years to come as more teachers are retrained and the curriculum is tweaked.
Next school year will also see at least one teacher in every elementary school trained to intervene on behalf of struggling students with a phonics-based approach.
This is particularly important for students learning English or someone with a learning difference like dyslexia.
Local Assemblyman Bobby Carroll was on hand to share how he was diagnosed at the age of 6 with dyslexia, but his parents had the resources to get him the help he needed. Carroll said he has been fighting for a decade to fund and require an evidence-based literacy curriculum in schools to right the wrongs of the past.
“If you’re talking about equity and justice and you are not talking about literacy, you’re missing the boat,” Carroll said. “Two-thirds of our kids in New York City public schools are not reading and we know how to fix it.”
The assemblyman is also a champion of the Right to Read Act, which would standardize this science-based phonics curriculum around the state.