The Surprising Barrier That Revolutionized How Children Learn to Read

as new york begins Ambitious plan to overhaul how children are educated In the nation’s largest school system, school leaders face a major hurdle: educator skepticism.

In recent years, driven by decades of research, dozens of cities and states have sought to transform reading instruction Known as “The Science of Reading”But the success of their efforts will depend in part on the willingness of school leaders to embrace a sea change in their thinking about how children learn.

Principals who have already rolled out in New York City are frustrated. School principal David C. Banks is forcing schools to abandon a strategy he believes is the main reason half of students in grades three through eight are not reading proficient.

But principals will lose control over school reading curriculum choices, and their unions have criticized the pace of change.Many educators still believe in “balanced literacy,” a popular approach to developing a love of books through independent reading time, but experts and prime ministers can’t say enough Focus on foundational skills.

Whether schools ultimately embrace — or resist — the city’s push will help shape the legacy of the chancellor’s race: Will New York’s plans fall prey to the swings of the pendulum that come with each new administration?or it will be a watershed moment reading war?

“The key is the principal and the deputy principal,” said Wiley Blevins, an early reading expert who has helped train local teachers. “They understand what’s going on, they’re properly trained and supported.”

“If you don’t have that, it will fail,” he added.

The tension in New York mirrors that faced by other cities as they push to adopt the science of reading.National leaders have learned that they must balance action with urgency to address National Reading Crisis Take the time to persuade principals and teachers to rethink deeply held beliefs.

“You’re fundamentally asking people to change who they are,” said Aaron Bouie III, who runs the suburban elementary school curriculum. in ohio Overhaul the teaching of reading over the past three years.

Still, Mr Bouie’s constituency and the rest of the country have proven that early frustration can be overcome.

Districts that have previously overhauled reading instruction detailed their rationale for the change, leaders said, but have also limited expectations for rapid progress. They hired experienced teachers early on and relied on their influence to convince others. They say they have gone to great lengths to get their message across to principals, teachers and families.

“I always say my first two years were PR,” says Kymyona Burk, a former state literacy director in Mississippi, whose reading scores range from Nationwide Worst to Most Improved.

“It’s all about transparency,” she said, “even if you don’t have all the answers.”

In New York City, nearly all elementary schools will adopt one of three reading curricula selected by local school district superintendents for the next two years. For some school leaders in New York, the way they first learned about the plan — sometimes via a district-wide Zoom call — has been a sticking point.

A survey by the principals’ union last month found three out of four school leaders were disappointed by the rollout.

“How do you build that trust now?” said union president Henry Rubio. “I have no idea.”

when the city required for all primary When opting for the phonics class last fall, Sunset Park PS 503 principal Nina Demos said she was “very grateful” for the decision and the balance of “autonomy, agency and cohesion” it introduced.

The school is teaching phonics alongside the popular Balanced Literacy curriculum, which the city will no longer allow. Now that she’s been asked to adopt a new program, Into Reading, Ms Demos says she still has too little information.

“I’m just wondering: ‘Where is the data-driven evidence that this is the best option?'” Ms Demos said, adding that she only learned that Into Reading had received high score National Curriculum Review Team.

Ms Demos was also frustrated by the turmoil in the early days of the rollout: She said she was told in March that schools would be allowed to keep the writing units they were using. But last week, she was told she had to switch to Into Reading’s writing component.

“Every time I start planning,” she said, “my plans are changing.”

Mr. Banks, himself a Bronx principal in the 2000s, said he sympathized with those setbacks.

“I understand. But I also look at the data,” Mr Banks said, adding, “The system already provides a level of autonomy – and it hasn’t worked.”

About half of school districts will adopt the new curriculum in September. Teachers began virtual professional development this month, while training is expected to intensify over the summer. All schools will have at least 26 days of scheduled classes for educators, officials said.

In areas where the transition is more important and there is likely to be more opposition — such as Manhattan’s 2nd Ward, which includes Tribeca, Chelsea and the Upper East Side — the department has allowed an additional year to make changes.

Kevyn Bowles, principal of Crown Heights PS 532 in Brooklyn, which uses a balanced approach to literacy, said there was too little transparency in the city’s process of selecting three curriculum options.

Principals in his district expect they will be required to adopt Into Reading within two years. But Mr Bowles is concerned the scheme is already in use at some nearby schools, where many children are struggling.

“How can it be done better?” he asked, adding, “I’m not confident. It’s really up to the Superintendent and other district leaders Engage meaningfully. “

Not everyone needs to be convinced.

Many teachers in New York say they need better classroom materials and have Call for a more focused curriculum approach. Crucially, their union also supports the move. There are also many local parents– Especially those whose children are dyslexic – Be blunt about the need for change.

Some principals, such as Joanna Cohen, have rethought their approach.

As someone who grew up passionate about reading and writing, she used to be “almost evangelical in balanced literacy,” she said. But in 2019, when she read it for the first time, “her roots were shaken” About Popular Reading Strategies away from scientific research.

Since becoming the principal of Balanced Literacy School Park Slope PS 107, she has Stimulate more teachers to receive training in reading science. It’s not always easy.

Ms Cohen said that because of the generally high scores – almost 80 per cent of students passed the state test – “we just got used to” some students who were not proficient in reading. But “momentum has picked up,” she said. “At this point, I don’t feel any resistance.”

Even after educators are persuaded, other barriers can hinder progress.

many School of Education is still teaching Flawed strategies, such as encouraging children Guess the word using picture hints. Teachers are often concerned about the quality of training on new methods provided by external organizations.

The city must also monitor schools’ progress in adopting the new curriculum.

“You don’t want to turn the classroom into a surveillance situation, but you also don’t want to end up with books sitting on shelves and no one is using them,” says Morgan Polikoff, a curriculum expert who worked on the new curriculum. York’s approach.

some states like Colorado and Arkansas A strict—sometimes unpopular—approach to surveillance has been adopted, with stronger enforcement programs in place. Others rely on looser incentives and encouragement.

But even though overall approval ratings may be high, school support can be critical in determining whether individual classrooms end up making big changes.

“A lot of principals I know are saying, ‘I’m doing what I’ve grown to believe in over the years. Period,'” Lucy Calkins Balanced Literacy Leader, told educators at a Teachers College event in March. “You can say no. People are doing it all over the country.”

However, she added: “If your child is not growing, you need to change the way you teach.”

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