New York City schools to revamp reading curriculum after national study shows significant drop in test scores


NEW YORK — A disturbing national study shows for the first time the devastating educational costs of the COVID pandemic.

The report compared the scores of 9-year-olds across the country from this year to 2020. In reading, the average score fell by five points – the biggest drop since 1990. In math, scores fell by seven points – the first time math scores dropped.

On Thursday, New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks raised the issue with CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer.

While the study is certainly heartbreaking, especially as it notes that minority students have been hit the hardest, Banks said he was in no way shocked as he has seen it in the field for that he took the job in January.

Banks said he had a strategy to turn things around.

“I personally think our approach to teaching reading has been fundamentally flawed,” Banks said.

The first step in the Department of Education’s strategy to address the learning deficits of COVID is therefore to totally revamp the way schoolchildren learn to read.

Instead of what he described as “balanced literacy,” where kids see a picture and guess the word, “We’re going back to the old way of teaching reading, a very phonetic approach to teaching reading, which we have very honestly moved away from over the past 25 years,” Banks said.

Banks said he was particularly concerned about the study’s findings regarding pandemic deficit among minority students. For example, black students lost 13 points in math. White students lost five.

“Can the school system invent this? Or will it affect people, this generation, for the rest of their lives?” asked Kramer.

“Well, I certainly hope we can catch up as quickly as possible. But we don’t know how quickly that can happen. Our children have suffered huge academic losses, huge social and emotional losses as well, and it’s all connected,” Banks said.

The chancellor’s strategy also calls for exposing and stimulating children outside the classroom.

“Making sure our kids have the chance to go visit cultural institutions around New York City. The whole world lives here and we should be exposing our kids to so many new and exciting things all over the city,” Banks said.

Mona Davids of the New York City Parents Union said she supports the chancellor’s plan to change the way reading is taught. Davids blamed part of the learning deficit on the previous administration, which pushed to keep schools closed.

“I blame Mayor de Blasio. I blame the former Chancellor of Carranza Schools,” Davids said. “It’s not rocket science. What you need to do is academic intervention, after-school tutoring, extended school day, Saturday school. It’s all on deck.”

Michael Mulgrew, president of the teachers’ union, also supports the reading changes. Mulgrew wants a definitive plan from the DOE with teacher input.

“We definitely need a better plan and more importantly a plan that, you design the plan by allowing the people doing the work to actively participate in the plan,” Mulgrew said.

Banks said it would also help if parents read with their children and took them to the library to pick up books.

And yes, maybe less screen time too.

Watch Marcia Kramer’s full interview with New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks at 6 p.m. Tuesday, September 6 on our “Back-to-School Blueprint” special on CBS News New York . They talk about everything that affects students this year and answer your questions.


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