New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Chancellor David C. Banks announced this week a $35 million investment in improving literacy instruction in the city’s public school system — marking a major instructional shift to the “science of reading” in the nation’s largest district, which has historically allowed for local autonomy in curriculum decisions with many schools choosing a balanced literacy approach.

At its core, “New York City (NYC) Reads” is about moving schools away from a balanced literacy approach, which continues to come under criticism. With the new initiative, local district superintendents will choose one of three evidence-based curricula to use in elementary school ELA classrooms: “Into Reading,” “Wit and Wisdom,” or “EL Education,” which were centrally-selected by the NYC Public Schools Office of Teaching and Learning. Teaching Strategies “Creative Curriculum” and “GOLD assessment” will be used in all early childhood programs to ensure children enter kindergarten with critical foundational skills.

New York City’s commitment to evidence-based curriculum reform coincides with a broader, national push to incorporate the science of reading into education curriculum and instruction.  During 2023 legislative sessions, four states – Georgia, Indiana, New Mexico, and Virginia passed new reading laws. Lawmakers in Ohio, Illinois, and Minnesota are considering similar proposals. With good reason: data suggests that post-pandemic literacy scores plummeted with NAEP scores, suggesting that only one-third of U.S. fourth graders are now reaching critical proficiency benchmarks.

NYC Reads is expected to take two years to implement city-wide. In addition to curriculum reform, NYC Reads will support intensive professional learning and coaching for educators to be well-prepared for the 2023-2024 school year. The district will also be rolling out Illustrative Mathematics as its core high school Algebra 1 curriculum citywide, selected by district superintendents, and district-created culturally responsive instructional materials under the ‘Hidden Voices’ initiative. 

Interested in learning more about NYC Reads, the science of reading, or pending reading legislation around the country? Let us know!