Thanks to all who came out for the panel discussion and speak out on literacy. Our panel members, Brenda Brazell, Maria Sandoval, and Deena Hellman, did a great job setting the stage and speaking from the point of view of parents and educators about how hard it can be to secure excellent instruction in reading and writing for students with special education needs.
But we also heard that it can be done. All three panelists told us about successes — Brenda with her daughter who was there with her last night, Maria with her students at Brooklyn Frontiers High School, and Deena, at the Star Learning Center where she is now the Director, and in districts outside of NYC where she worked as an Assistant Superintendent previously.
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.