The Education Trust New York says in Rochester, 89% of students are not reading at grade level; in Syracuse, it's 87%; and Buffalo is only doing slightly better, with 76% of students not meeting grade level expectations.

Governor Kathy Hochul addressed this in her State of the State address and says she has plans to advance public schools’ adoption of the “science of reading” method. Hochul calls it her “Back to Basics” reading plan.

She is seeking legislation for statewide action to ensure that NYSED and every school district utilizes instructional best practices grounded in the “science of reading” by 2025. More than 30 other states have already adopted legislation to use the “science of reading” in the classroom.

According to The Reading League, a Syracuse-based national organization with a mission to boost reading skills in kids, the “science of reading” is “a vast, interdisciplinary body of scientifically-based research about reading and issues related to reading and writing.” It includes includes teaching phonics, decoding, vocabulary and comprehension. Another approach, called balanced literacy, according to EdSource, is “a variation of the whole-language approach that emphasizes exploring literature organically but includes the explicit instruction of phonics in small doses.”

“All this effort has just taken root and grown internationally. And so, it's exciting to see New York jumping in and being a part of this international movement to really shift practices to be more in alignment with research as children learn to read,” said Dr. Doreen Mazzye, an assistant professor at SUNY Oswego.

Mazzye says professional development and how it’s done is critical, noting it must start with administrators’ support.

Over the last five years, a team including Oswego staff has developed best practices for the implementation of the reading program, published in the International Journal of Instruction.

Hochul hopes the state will provide $10 million to fund training for 20,000 teachers in effective reading instruction. The governor adds that the goal is to expand access to “science of reading” instruction credentials at SUNY and CUNY schools.