School & District Management

N.Y.C. Chancellor Pushes for Schools to Reinstate Independent-Reading Time

By Liana Loewus — August 27, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Carmen Fariña, the new schools chancellor in New York City, is bringing the specifics of classroom reading instruction back into the public eye.

As I wrote in July, Fariña is a fan of “balanced literacy,” an approach to reading instruction that was once mandated in the city but has since been abandoned by many schools. At the heart of the approach is an emphasis on independent reading, also known as “sustained silent reading” or “drop everything and read.”

A recent Chalkbeat article on Fariña’s hands-on leadership style tells how the chancellor visited a middle school and “flatly told [the principal] to reconsider the school’s move away from independent reading time for students.”

The principal remembered Fariña saying, “Look, I think this is something you should not take out of your reading curriculum.” The chancellor later took the principal and a handful of students on a shopping spree at Barnes & Noble.

Veteran reading teachers will recall that the 2000 Nation Reading Panel report steered teachers away from using sustained silent reading in the classroom. The few studies available on the topic at the time “failed to find a positive relationship between encouraging reading and either the amount of reading or reading achievement,” the report states. The panel did not find the practice was ineffective, it simply found there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude it improved achievement.

That report is now 14 years old. Since then, many classrooms have stopped using SSR—though many continue using it. The federally funded panel has not reconvened since, and subsequent research on the topic has been limited.

There was plenty of fervor over the whole language vs. phonics “reading wars” in the 1990s, but that has since died down. And while the debate’s not resolved, there’s been much less public attention paid to the issue in the last decade-and-a-half. The nitty-gritty details, such as whether students should spend 20 minutes a day reading silently at school or not, have especially seen little media attention. (A search on the Education Week website shows just one mention of the exact phrase “sustained silent reading” in the last 5 years.)

But Fariña, it seems, is bringing the specifics of reading instruction back into the limelight.

Walt Gardner, a former teacher and education professor, and Marc Tucker, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, both rehashed the reading wars on their Education Week opinion blogs recently. The New York Times did a roundtable blog on the “right approach to reading instruction” in July. Psychology professor Daniel Willingham recently revisited the research on New York City’s reading programs on RealClearEducation. And of course Chalkbeat New York and The New York Times have both focused on reading pedagogy in their ongoing coverage of the chancellor.

As always, I’d like to hear from readers. Regardless of whether you agree with Fariña’s approach or not—is it a good thing people are talking about reading instructional strategies again? Or is it a case of needlessly drudging up old controversy? And in the end, what effect will this have on the nearly 1 million students in New York City public schools, and beyond?

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management 10 Ways to Tackle Education's Urgent Challenges
As the school year gets underway, we ask hard questions about education’s biggest challenges and offer some solutions.
2 min read
Conceptual Image of schools preparing for the pandemic
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Reported Essay Principals Need Social-Emotional Support, Too
By overlooking the well-being of their school leaders, districts could limit how much their schools can flourish.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management From Our Research Center Educator Stress, Anti-Racism, and Pandemic Response: How You're Feeling
A new nationally representative survey offers key takeaways from teachers, principals, and district leaders.
EdWeek Research Center
1 min read
2021 BI COVER no text DATA crop
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Download 8 Tips for Building a Digital Learning Plan That Conquers Chaos
Craft flexible strategies, encourage experimentation with new instructional models, and regularly solicit feedback.
1 min read
onsr edtech tips
Getty