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Governor Unveils “Back to Basics” Reading Proficiency Plan

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As a part of her 2024 State of the State, Governor Kathy Hochul on Tuesday unveiled her Back to Basics plan to improve reading proficiency in New York. According to her office, to transition New York to reading instruction that teaches students the foundational skills they need to become proficient readers, Governor Hochul will introduce legislation that ensures evidence-based best practices are used throughout New York. The Governor will also propose $10 million in state investments to train 20,000 teachers in Science of Reading instructional best practices and announce an expansion of SUNY and CUNY’s micro-credentialing programs for teachers focused on the Science of Reading, to ensure our current and future teachers seeking advanced education are best prepared.

“Reading is the foundation of our education system, but New York State is currently not meeting basic reading proficiency levels,” Governor 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 “We cannot continue to allow our kids to fall further behind by utilizing outdated and discredited approaches to reading comprehension.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.”

The Governor cited studies that have shown the ability to read by third grade is an important indicator of a student’s future success. Students who do not achieve proficiency by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school, with dropout rates even more pronounced for students of color and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Additionally, failure to ensure reading proficiency at an early age has a cascading effect, potentially derailing a student’s academic trajectory, and impacting future earning potential, health, and well-being. Recognizing the urgent need to improve reading proficiency and ensure student success, more than 30 states have transitioned to a ‘back-to-basics’ approach.

As a part of her 2024 State of the State, Governor Hochul is announcing several initiatives to get New York kids back on track.

Governor Hochul’s Back to Basics reading plan takes statewide action to ensure that every school district utilizes instructional best practices grounded in the Science of Reading. Governor Hochul will seek passage this year of legislation to require that the State Education Department (SED) promulgate instructional best practices in reading instruction and that school districts adopt those practices. This approach includes teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, decoding, vocabulary, and comprehension. By September 2025, all school districts will need to certify with SED that their curriculum, instructional strategies, and teacher professional development align with all elements of the instructional best practices.

Governor Hochul also announced $10 million for teacher training programs to ensure teachers are prepared to utilize evidence-based standards in the classroom. The New York State United Teachers and the United Federation Teachers have already begun training thousands of teachers in the Science of Reading, and this funding would support the training of 20,000 additional teachers and elementary school teaching assistants.

To prepare New York’s current and future teachers seeking advanced education, Governor Hochul’s Back to Basics plan also includes enhancing and expanding the SUNY and CUNY Microcredential Program for Teachers focused on the Science of Reading.

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