Expert Opinion: Second-grade literacy initiative

Expert Opinion: Second-grade literacy initiative

Expert Opinion: Second-grade literacy initiative
October 1, 2015

Now that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s universal pre-K initiative is a success, naysayers are attacking the rest of his education plan.

The programs the mayor announced in his Sept. 16 “Equity and Excellence” speech would be taken for granted in suburban, private and, yes, charter schools. Detractors who chided the mayor for not being visionary now see his transformational idea: What’s good for suburban, private and charter school kids is good for our students.

These are simple but game-changing proposals, like the notion that all second-graders read at grade level and all ninth-graders be proficient in algebra.

The second-grade literacy initiative is the most urgent of de Blasio’s concepts. Reams of research show that children who aren’t reading by the end of third grade are unlikely to catch up with their peers academically.

Under the plan, each elementary school would receive support from dedicated reading specialists – approximately 700 of whom would be in place across all elementary schools by fall 2018. School leaders must use these specialists effectively and find new ways to enlist families as learning partners.

The mayor vows that every student will complete algebra no later than ninth grade. Research indicates that algebra is the gateway to higher-level math and science. About 60 percent of our middle schools now offer algebra to eighth-graders. The mayor wants algebra in all middle schools by 2022, with the first new classes and prep programs starting in fall 2016. The mayor also wants to give all students access to computer science and Advanced Placement courses. To do that, principals will need the best teachers, and will need to make sure these educators get the necessary professional development.

Computer literacy is another prerequisite in our technology-centric society, and for good reason. In 2014 New York’s high-paying high-tech industry was creating jobs four times faster than the rest of the city’s economy.

Over the next 10 years the city will introduce computer science classes in first through 12th grades, giving every student access to fundamental programming, coding, robotics and Web design.

Expanding Advanced Placement courses is also part of the plan. Starting in fall 2016, the city will offer at least five AP classes at each of our 400 high schools.

I can think of no reason not to back these initiatives and others in the proposal, including College Access for All and the revolutionary Single Shepherd, a family educational mentor plan.

I urge our school leaders to embrace this agenda.

Ernest Logan is President, Council of School Supervisors & Administrators