NYC will screen public school students for dyslexia for the first time
Mayor Eric Adams will launch new pilot programs for students with dyslexia at two public schools and increase literacy screenings at dozens more — the latest elements of his plan to help the city’s struggling readers.
The mayor, who frequently speaks about his own struggles with dyslexia, said Thursday the city will eventually roll out universal literacy screenings for all students; it aims to have specialized dyslexia schools in every borough by fall 2023.
According to a news release, starting next fall, the city will train teachers at 80 elementary schools and 80 middle schools to screen students for reading challenges. The city will also launch new programs at PS 161 in the Bronx and PS 125 in Manhattan for students with dyslexia and other language-related learning disabilities. Department of Education employees – called School Intervention Support Coordinators – in each district office will work with schools to help identify and support students who need help.
The Adams administration has yet to unveil a branded education policy akin to de Blasio’s universal pre-k initiative. But Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks said improving literacy education in the city’s public schools is a top priority. The city will require schools to use programs with a heavy emphasis on phonics and move away from a popular Columbia University Teachers’ College program called Reading and Writing Workshop that some researchers say is not effective .
“As a student, I struggled to identify my dyslexia long after leaving the public school system,” Adams said in a statement. “By changing the way we approach dyslexia, we can unlock untapped potential in students who may feel insecure about their dyslexia or any other language-based learning disabilities they may have.”
Naomi Peña, a parent working on the dyslexia program at PS 161 in the Bronx, said the goal was to incubate classrooms that focus on reading intervention and structured literacy. Ultimately, she said her group envisioned creating a “beacon school” that could be a training ground for teachers who would then spread throughout the system.
Debbie Meyer, board member of the Dyslexia Alliance for Black Children, said PS 125’s plan is to develop a pilot program for students with dyslexia and then potentially convert a school into a model that can be used for the both dyslexic pupils and general education pupils. She said the goal was to merge teaching “explicit” literacy with progressive lessons.
“We are excited to be able to bring them together in a pilot program at PS 125,” she said.
Officials said they have already convened a literacy advisory council and plan to launch a dyslexia task force soon.
Last week, a report by Advocates for Children called on the Education Department to urgently revamp literacy instruction in the public school system. Fewer than 47% of all third- through eighth-grade students, and just 36% of black and Hispanic students, achieved a reading fluency score on 2019 state tests, statistics the group called of “inadmissible”.