NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City is changing the way it teaches reading, getting children hooked on phonics, after Schools Chancellor David Banks concluded public schools have been teaching reading the wrong way for the last 20 years.
Mayor Eric Adams, Banks and other school officials rolled out the program Tuesday morning at a presentation in Brooklyn.
Schools will now adopt one of three curriculums using phonics, which teach how to decode letter sounds instead of more recently employed methods like using picture clues to guess words.
Half of the districts will begin the program in September; the others will start in 2024.
Waivers to opt out will be considered for schools where more than 85% of students are proficient in reading, a threshold that only about 20 schools meet.
The overhaul will be a massive undertaking. Teachers will have to learn new strategies.
But the mayor, who has dyslexia, says reading needs to be a priority.
"'New York City Reads' is a historic curriculum shift in the largest school district in the nation that will bring proven science-of-reading and phonics-based methods to all of our public-school students, starting with our early childhood programs and our elementary schools," Adams said in a statement released ahead of Tuesday's rollout. "We owe it to our young people, and we owe it to our educators who have been working hard to teach without access to the right tools. Through this campaign, New York City is finally setting up our students and teachers for success."
About half of city children in grades three through eight are not proficient in reading.
Black, Latino and low-income children fare even worse.
According to the Departments of Education in New York City and New York State:
In 2019 only 53.3 % of NYC third graders were proficient in English language arts, which includes reading.
In 2022 the rate of proficiency had fallen to 49.2%
Across New York State, 52.3% of third graders were proficient in English language arts in 2019.
That rate had fallen to 46% in 2022.