Beginning in the 2023–24 school year, we will be launching an initiative called NYC Reads. The goal is to ensure that all New York City students become strong readers, which is the single most important skill required for educational, career, and lifetime success. Based on extensive research, NYC Reads will ensure that pre-K and elementary school students receive the most effective reading instruction materials and methods.
Phasing in over two years, NYC Reads will require all early childhood education classrooms to adopt a single, uniform curriculum called The Creative Curriculum, while K-5 schools will choose one of three pre-approved, phonics-based reading curricula that have proven to be effective. The new literacy program will be implemented in 15 community school districts in 2023-24, with all districts adopting it by the following school year.
Why is this important?
Too many of our elementary school students are not meeting grade level proficiency in reading and math. Two-thirds of Black and Latino students are not reading at grade level, and students in temporary housing and other students who have formal gaps in their education can fall behind when moving to a new school using a different curriculum.
The science of reading is clear that the most effective approach to building literacy includes consistent, age-appropriate instruction with a focus on phonics and decoding.
By standardizing curriculum options across all New York City public school districts, we can ensure that all students have access to the tools they need to build strong reading and writing skills and that instruction is consistent from grade to grade and school to school, offering our city’s students a more level playing field. Focusing on select curricula aligned to these proven practices not only ensures students will be receiving consistent, research-backed instruction, but allows for better coordination of professional support for teachers in successfully implementing these lessons in the classroom.
What are the goals of this program?
Our goal is to ensure that every student in every classroom has access to quality, research-based curricula selected through collaboration between superintendent and principals that is supported by deep, intensive training and support. Teaching our children to be skilled readers is an absolutely essential step in ensuring each New York City Public Schools student graduates on a pathway to a rewarding career and long-term economic security, equipped to be a positive force for change.
What is the “science of reading?”
The “science of reading” refers to a broad collection of research that is focused on helping children become better readers and writers through evidence-based practice. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, nor is it tied to a specific program or curriculum. While phonics is an important part of literacy instruction, it is not the only important part of the science of reading, which suggests that there are five key concepts for students to learn to be effective readers and writers: understanding letter sounds; decoding words; building vocabulary; reading fluently; and comprehending what you read.
About the Curricula
A curriculum is how standards, or learning goals, for every grade and subject are translated into day-to-day activities. As part of the NYC Reads initiative, all early childhood programs will use The Creative Curriculum. All elementary schools will choose a comprehensive, evidence-based curricula for reading instruction that includes grounding in phonics.
Each curriculum has been reviewed and recommended by EdReports, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization. You can learn more about each of the elementary school curriculum options below:
HMH Into Reading
We selected HMH Into Reading following a formal review in 2021-22. Educators and school leaders assessed curriculum options based on the quality of texts in terms of volume, range, knowledge building, assessment, usability, and accessibility for a diverse student population.
HMH Into Reading underwent an implementation study conducted by Cobblestone Applied Research & Evaluation, Inc., a third-party research firm. They collected and analyzed data from one suburban school district during the 2019-20 school year, revealing significant growth and student achievement across all participating grades, regardless of gender, ethnicity, special education status, English Language Learner status, or Gifted/Talented status. Note: this study was terminated in March 2020 due to the pandemic.
Imagine Learning EL Education (formerly Expeditionary Learning)
We selected Imagine Learning’s Expeditionary Learning following a formal review in 2021-22. Educators and school leaders assessed curriculum options based on the quality of text in terms of volume, range, and diversity, knowledge building, assessment, usability, and accessibility for a diverse student population.
Expeditionary Learning was evaluated by WestED in seven schools in a large district in Tennessee during the 2018-19 school year. 86% of the more than 1,000 students who were included in this study are Black and 64% were economically disadvantaged. This study revealed significant improvements in student achievement in the first year of implementation.
Great Minds Wit & Wisdom
Great Minds’ Wit & Wisdom was reviewed by a Core Curriculum Task Force that was convened during the 2022-23 school year.
The curriculum has been reviewed by National bodies like EdReports and has been chosen in other rigorous curricula reviews, for example the Louisiana Instructional Materials Review and Massachusetts' CURATE.
This task force also reconfirmed the selection of both HMH’s Into Reading and Expeditionary Learning.
Implementation and Timeline
NYC Reads will be implemented beginning in the 2023–24 school year, in two phases:
How are superintendents selecting which curriculum to use?
Superintendents are engaging their communities and in discussion with their principals and will make their decision based on the feedback they receive.
Which districts are in phase 1?
5, 11, 12, 14, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 29, 30, and 32.
Which districts are in phase 2?
1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 17, 18, 24, 27, 28, 31, 75, and 79.
How were these districts selected?
Districts participating in Phase 1 are all districts that have already widely adopted one of the three curricular options.
The Division of School Leadership met with superintendents one-on-one to discuss this new policy and superintendents opted in to participate in this phase of the rollout.
What will Phase 2 districts be doing during the first phase?
The 17 districts in Phase 2 will “learn to launch” during school year 2023-24, with full implementation in school year 2024-25. During the summer and spring of school year 2023-24, superintendents will participate in community engagement and a curriculum selection process. In the fall of school year 2023-24, Principals will be making curriculum purchases and identifying a model classroom in each school to receive professional learning.
Is this a mandate?
At the end of the two-year implementation process, all districts will have adopted one of the three Core Curriculum options as described above.
Will this take away teacher autonomy?
No! A curriculum provides the framework of what to teach and offers some suggestions on how to teach a particular topic, but a strong educator must bring their added value, strategies, personality, and knowledge of their students to the work as well.
Meeting the Needs of Every NYC Student
NYC Reads aims to provide every student with the tools they need to become successful readers and writers, and ensure that both our students and staff have the support that they need.
Are these curricula adapted for students with disabilities?
The NYC Department of Education’s Special Education Office (SEO) will provide curricula support across several key areas such as pacing and prioritizing; building knowledge through experiences and different ways of thinking and learning; integrating digital, interactive online platforms and other educational technologies to adapt learning materials, support students, and identify additional texts for study.
For students with disabilities, educators will use multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS)—a school-wide, data-based approach to instruction that helps ensure that students receive the level and type of supports necessary—including Specially Designed Instruction (SDI)—to best meet each student’s needs and help them to succeed.
In addition, SEO will provide curriculum support across several key areas in both math and English Language Arts instruction.
Are these curricula adapted for Multilingual Learners (MLLs)/English Language Learners (ELLs)?
New York City Public Schools will support the implementation of the core curriculum through our existing collection of resources that demonstrate how to make grade-level content (e.g., ELA, math) accessible for English Language Learners (ELLs). These resources are designed with a commitment to valuing students' real languages, experiences, and histories—both in what the lessons are about and how they are taught.
New York City Public Schools provides teachers with professional learning and educator resources designed for use with the core curriculum that demonstrate how to support English Language Learners (ELLs) in the classroom and help to ensure equitable, inclusive, and culturally responsive instruction for all students.
Resources for Families
There are many resources available for families to continue promoting literacy education at home, and to ensure that your child is getting solid reading instruction.
- Attend an Open House: take opportunities to engage with your school to learn more about what your child is doing in the classroom.
- We encourage parents to attend Open House nights and other opportunities to engage with the school and school leadership so they can ask questions like, is my child receiving regular, direct instruction in reading and writing? What types of texts are they using? Do they get 30 minutes or more a day to develop these skills?
- Ask your child about their work: Check in with your child and ask if they are enjoying reading and if they understand what they are reading about.
- Can your child retell the stories they are reading or learning about? If you were to stop your child midway through a text, could they explain what they’re reading about? Can they retell a story that you’re reading with them?
- Practice Understanding: comprehension skills go beyond just books! Children can use art, maps, games, and other media to practice decoding and comprehension skills important to literacy.
- Read! When children see other members of their family reading, writing, and engaging with texts, they are more excited about reading. Reading together is also a great way to build skills outside of the classroom. We also believe that seeing other members of the family reading, writing, and engaging with texts is a great way to encourage students in these skills outside of the classroom.
For more resources to support reading and literacy at home, visit our Literacy page, which provides activities and ideas to help students continue learning beyond the classroom.