Randi Weingarten expresses teachers’ frustration with NYC’s reading curriculum mandate

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A prominent labor leader is expressing new concerns about the literacy curriculum mandate in New York City, which is the main educational initiative of schools Chancellor David Banks.

During a panel discussion at a Manhattan elementary school, President of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten criticized the reading curriculums elementary schools have to use.

In a recent interview elaborating on her opinions, she mentioned that teachers are showing a lot of frustration about the implementation of the new materials.

“It became much more about the performative aspects of saying the curriculum is being implemented as opposed to the real support that teachers need and students need in mastering new skills and new tools,” Weingarten stated.

Weingarten expressed her approval of the city’s decision to mandate curriculums based on the “science of reading” but noted that the expectations are rigid and do not allow teachers sufficient time to learn.

New York City educators have previously voiced concerns about the Education Department’s training efforts, and some schools have asked for exemptions from the new curriculums. Weingarten’s comments stand out as a notable critique of Banks’ top education initiative.

The United Federation of Teachers, a key supporter of the curriculum changes, has refrained from publicly commenting on Weingarten’s assessment. She suggested increasing the number of schools exempt from the mandates.

Weingarten’s remarks come at a critical juncture as elementary schools in the city must implement approved reading curriculums by the fall. City officials aim to enhance reading proficiency rates by revamping instructional practices.

City officials revealed plans to introduce standardized curriculums across middle and high school math classrooms. Weingarten’s comments were not directly addressed by Education Department spokesperson Nicole Brownstein.

Teachers can receive up to 26 days of coaching throughout the school year to adjust to the new materials, in addition to other training opportunities provided by local district offices. Feedback on the city’s training efforts has been primarily positive, based on teacher surveys.

During a panel discussion in Manhattan, Weingarten criticized the city’s curriculum choices and called them “terrible.” Some critics have also targeted the Into Reading program from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is being mandated by most local superintendents.

Weingarten later expressed regret for calling the curriculums terrible but emphasized the need for more support and flexibility in their implementation.

At The Neighborhood School, concerns have been raised that the curriculum mandate may restrict teachers from using their unique materials. Weingarten suggested schools with strong instructional approaches should be granted exemptions from the mandate.

The high academic performance of a gifted and talented program in Brooklyn led to the granting of a waiver from the mandate. However, the criteria for seeking exceptions have not been publicly outlined.

Literacy expert Susan Neuman at New York University expressed surprise at Weingarten’s comments and worried they might deter educators from the new materials. Neuman highlighted the importance of patience in enacting the curriculum appropriately.

Neuman suggested that Weingarten is trying to balance the need for new reading instruction approaches with allowing teachers to adapt the materials to meet their students’ needs and utilize their expertise effectively.

Recognizing the move towards consistency in the curriculum, Neuman emphasized the importance of adapting teaching methods to improve educational outcomes and move away from inconsistent practices.