Reading scores are in crisis. Instruction is uneven at best. Can a plan to change curriculum at all New York City public schools help more students become proficient readers?

We believe it can.

As district superintendents who oversee more than 80 schools combined in Brooklyn and the Bronx, we have seen firsthand how a well-chosen reading curriculum can spark and hold students’ interest, sharpen instruction, and shape classwork that builds confidence and literacy alike. In our schools, reading lessons build foundational skills, vocabulary, critical thinking, and a bank of background knowledge that connects students to one another and prepares them for lifelong learning.

It wasn’t always so. A few years ago, too many of our students were not reading at grade level, and despite extra help and the hard work of teachers, too few were ever catching up. In the “balanced literacy” approach our schools were using, students were spending a lot of time reading independently, which meant reading books that were often two and three grade levels below where they needed to be. They were almost never exposed to high-quality texts at the right grade level, and they weren’t getting enough explicit instruction in the building-block skills that would accelerate their progress.

In each of our districts, we gathered our principals together, compared our school-based data to state test scores, and had a tough moment of reflection. It was time to change how we taught reading and what materials we used to teach it.

This is the moment where our colleagues across the city currently find themselves. Under the “New York City Reads” campaign, every local district leader is required to choose one of three reading curriculums and see that it is implemented at every school they oversee. About half of the districts began using one of the selected curriculums this fall, and the other half will do so in 2024. The city has committed funding to support training and coaching for teachers, many of whom will be teaching new materials and in a new way.

We are excited that the city has embraced the same approach to reading instruction that we chose for our respective districts four years ago. This course correction comes decades after what Banks rightly described as “overlapping, contradictory, and sometimes just flat-out bad guidance.”

Read the full article about reading literacy by Tamra Collins and Cristine Vaughan at Chalkbeat.