Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday unveiled a proposal aimed to overhaul the way reading is taught in New York.

Speaking at an elementary school in Watervliet, in Albany County, Hochul said her "Back to Basics" plan approaches reading instruction by teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, decoding, vocabulary and comprehension.

This is a system she said that schools used for a long time until about 20 years ago when a new practice was launched. More than 30 states have transitioned back to a "Back to Basics" approach.

“Reading is the foundation of our education system, but New York State is currently not meeting basic reading proficiency levels,”  Hochul said. “We cannot continue to allow our kids to fall further behind by utilizing outdated and discredited approaches to reading comprehension. Our Back to Basics initiative will reset how schools approach reading, returning to scientifically proven techniques. Along with investments in teacher training programs, we are tackling this issue head on to make sure our teachers and kids are set up for success.”  

Melinda Person, President of New York State United Teachers says New York is joining a broader movement to abandon the teaching methods of the early 2000’s for a more traditional approach.

“This is the result of decades of research, brain science, information from tens of thousands of studies,” she said. “That is driving us toward this change in instructional practice,”

The Governor’s announcement was held at Watervliet Elementary School where fourth grade teacher Jeanne Lance says the school is ahead of the game.

“We transitioned to this approach a few years ago and we are seeing in real time just how well our students are responding,” she said.

In terms of Legislative support, Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay told us he wants to see the Governor’s proposal before commenting on specifics.

“We fund education at very high amounts which is good, I’m not opposed to that, but we also want results, so if that’s what the Governor is talking about she’ll have plenty of support from our conference and with me— but I guess we have to wait and see.”

Hochul also announced a $10 million investment for teacher training programs for these standards, which she said would support the training of 20,000 additional teachers and elementary school teaching assistants.  

“Fostering literacy excellence and empowering young minds are paramount to nurturing the educational journey of our state’s youngest learners," state Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said in a statement. "Drawing from evidence-based literacy instruction methods, our educators are able to provide a comprehensive approach that enhances literacy skills and equips learners with the tools needed for effective communication and lifelong learning. The State Education Department is working to ensure all students have the resources they need to be successful in literacy and life, no matter their learning differences. All students deserve the opportunity of a high-quality education that allows them to thrive.”

The "Back to Basics" proposal is part of Hochul's State of the State address in which she lies out legislative priorities for this year. She will give that address on Tuesday, Jan. 9 in the state Assembly chamber in Albany.

State lawmakers returned to Albany on Wednesday to begin the 2024 legislative session.



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