The ARISE Coalition recommends that the Department of Education (DOE) provide schools participating in the Universal Literacy Initiative and the Literacy Coaches that work with them with a toolkit of strategies for engaging all families, including those of students with disabilities, in their literacy efforts. While we are not looking to dictate any single strategy to educational staff in the NYC public schools, we recommend that participating schools undertake some combination of the promising practices [PDF] listed in the linked document.
And then, we heard from community members — parents, educators, and advocates — also about struggles with children reading far below grade level; schools offering little support to address students’ needs but proposing instead to hold students back; and parents eager to advocate on behalf of their children but uncertain what they could and should ask for from their schools. Again, we heard a few success stories. Our first parent speaker spoke to the room with her son by her side — her son whose school years started off incredibly rough because of his disability and his school’s unpreparedness to meet his needs, but who will be graduating with a Regents Diploma in a few weeks.
With planning, resources, training, and support, our schools can teach our students to read and write — not just decoding, but comprehending what’s in front of them. We heard it last night. The ARISE Coalition will continue to advocate for improved literacy skills for all students, including students with disabilities, but we need your help! If you haven’t yet, please sign our letter to the Chancellor, asking her to plan for and dedicate the resources necessary to prepare all school and district level staff to teach all our children to read and write.
The ARISE Coalition testified before the New York City Council Committee on Education regarding the Fiscal Year 2016 Preliminary Budget, urging the Council to fund an initiative proposed by the Mayor to support literacy development for students with disabilities, including students with dyslexia, as a down payment on what we hope will be a longer-term commitment to ensuring that every student in NYC, with and without disabilities, learns to read proficiently. View our testimony [PDF].