Parents are advocating for schools to switch instruction models for reading as proficiency scores across New York state remain low, especially for dyslexic and economically disadvantaged students.

“My child was one of those kids who went under the radar,” said Tina Carney, whose son Brennan has dyslexia. She said she noticed his reading was falling behind when he was 9.

“Many well-intentioned, wonderful educators told us, ‘give it time, he’ll catch up, maybe this is just how he is,’” Carney said. “And something just within me said that that wasn’t right.”

When schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she had the opportunity to tutor him from home. That was when she noticed his classes focused more on “balanced literacy,” an approach that teaches kids to learn words through context and images by reading grade-level storybooks, than it did on sounding out new words. 

Now she is advocating for a science-based approach to reading instruction that focuses on training teachers on the cognitive science behind learning how to read.

Additionally, Tarja Parssinen, founder of WNY Education Alliance, shared data collected by the alliance that shows dyslexic and economically disadvantaged students who do not have access to tutoring or help from a parent continually score low on reading assessments.

“Some of the push-back from educators and administrators is, it’s a fad or it’s a pendulum swing,” said Parssinen. “But this is actually not a pendulum swing because the science has always been there.”