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It’s time to start talking about what the next school year is going to look like.

As we all know, the past couple of school years have provided us with unimaginable challenges both inside and outside the classroom. The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare many of the stubborn inequities that have continuously affected our students and their families for decades. And while our schools and teachers adjusted in response to many of these systemic challenges, it’s clear that more comprehensive changes and investments are needed to ensure that all of our schools are providing our students with high quality academic and social-emotional experiences, regardless of who they are or where they live.

To that end, we’ve spoken with principals, teachers, DOE support staff members, families, and students who shared their experiences with us over the last year. We talked to them about their ideas and hopes for how we can move forward, and we asked for their input about their students’ academic needs. The response was clear: right now, we have a chance to make key changes to teaching and learning across our schools that can truly level the academic playing field for all of our students.

Girl standing in front of her school and wearing a pink mask that matches her pink and blue jacket and bookbag.

It is in this spirit that we present the DOE’s Academic Recovery Plan, our $635 million investment into City schools that will help students to learn, heal, and thrive this year. Below, you will find an overview of our plans for City schools—while more information is forthcoming later this summer, we hope the summary below will help you understand how our schools will approach the 2021–22 school year.

Understandably, we recognize that not every family feels the same way about returning to school in person—many families are excited and ready for full-time, in-person schooling for their children, while others feel anxious, or unsure about potential risks. Whatever your thoughts are about City public schools next year, we can promise you that your child’s health is our number one priority, now and always. We are opening full time for every student because we know we can protect their health and safety—and yours. And we know that being in school is critically important for your child’s growth and success.

So now without further ado, here’s what you can expect from New York City public schools this September:

Addressing Students’ Emotional and Mental Health Needs

Children in every community are carrying trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A successful academic recovery can only happen when the emotional and mental health needs of students are also addressed.

  • The DOE is hiring over 500 new social workers and other mental health support staff members so that your child’s school has at least one social worker or school-based mental health clinic.
  • We’ll begin adding over 130 new Community Schools to provide expanded social, emotional, academic, and extracurricular services in communities where they’re most needed.

Prioritizing Student Literacy

Literacy and reading are absolutely fundamental to children’s ability to reach important milestones all along the educational journey. Our goal is to have every student reading on grade level by the end of grade two.

  • If you have a child in kindergarten through grade 2, their teachers will use a tool to identify strengths and challenges at the beginning of the year, and develop support plans tailored to their specific needs.
  • Thousands of K–2 teachers will receive extra training to support literacy.
  • 140 more teachers will be hired to reduce class sizes at 72 elementary schools with the specific goal of improving reading proficiency.
  • We will bring the number of reading coaches in our successful Universal Literacy coaching program to 500 so every early childhood and K–2 classroom has one.
  • Schools will receive funding for targeted supports for students, such as extended day and enrichment activities.

Improve Students’ Technological Skills

This September, NYC schools will build on what we have learned over the past year about the benefits of technology. Students will develop digital skills to prepare them for the new economy.

  • We will distribute an additional 175,000 devices so every K–12 student who needs one has access to one.
  • We will launch an eighth grade technology project for students to demonstrate their digital literacy skills.
  • Over 5,000 K–12 teachers will be trained to teach computer science coursework.
  • We will expand Computer Science for All to support computational thinking, problem-solving, and digital skills for 400,000 students by 2024.

Additional Support for Students with Disabilities

The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on our students with disabilities. The Academic Recovery Plan will make every resource available to better support students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), from our youngest learners to students preparing for graduation.

  • The DOE will launch afterschool and Saturday programs for students with IEPs to receive additional instruction and related services.
  • We will add 800 Special Education Pre-K seats and expand Committees on Preschool Special Education to review more IEP requests.
  • Eligible students ages 21+ will be provided with either continued instruction toward their diploma or other credential, or consultation about plans for college and career readiness.
  • We will also continue to provide family workshops and information sessions through our Beyond Access Series, which supports families of students with disabilities by providing sessions on topics related to special education.

Additional Support for Multilingual Learners

Multilingual learners (MLLs) and immigrant families are valued and supported at DOE. We will provide culturally responsive supports that give students and their families equitable access to resources and opportunities that help students succeed inside and outside the classroom.

  • We will establish Immigrant Ambassador Programs across 30 high schools to match immigrant DOE students with college students for mentorship.
  • Schools will be provided resources to purchase print and digital books in students’ home languages, and build home language libraries.
  • We will provide teachers with training that is specific to the language needs of multilingual learners and immigrant students.
  • NYC schools will conduct wellness checks and deliver social-emotional learning support to multilingual learners, particularly in transitioning to full time in-person learning.
  • We will expand the Postsecondary Readiness for ELLs Program (PREP), to be facilitated by a select group of school counselors and educators.

Improved College and Career Readiness

As our students heal from the pandemic, the DOE is working to make sure that students are better prepared for the next step in life, whether it’s college or career.

  • We will deliver free, personalized college counseling for every junior and senior afterschool so that every student has a post-graduation plan. This includes launching Student Success Centers for 34 high schools.
  • We will offer Universal College Financial Aid Guidance in multiple languages, to help navigate the application process.
  • We will add new Advanced Placement or College Now courses so tens of thousands more students have access to college-level coursework.

Students Will Learn Challenging Material That Reflects Who They Are

Children are more engaged in class when they can see themselves in their lessons and materials. We are committed to reflecting the City’s beautiful mosaic of cultures and histories in curriculum.

  • In the fall, your child’s school will receive an infusion of books that reflect the variety of histories, languages, and experiences that make up the City.
  • The DOE will begin work on universal, rigorous, and inclusive English Language Arts (ELA) and Math curricula that will be shared by New York City’s 1,600 schools and one million students. It will be built on investments in literacy and will challenge students to move beyond their academic comfort zones.
  • The DOE will begin developing brand new support materials for ELA, Math, Arts and more, developed by New York City educators for New York City students.

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We hope you have a better idea of what we’re working towards for the upcoming school year. For updates regarding the DOE’s Academic Recovery Plan and more delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Morning Bell below, and stay tuned!


Banner photo by March Thele. Used under Creative Commons license. Original can be found on Pixabay.

The Morning Bell

Official blog for the NYC Department of Education, home of over 1.1 million students across 1,800+ schools

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NYC Department of Education, 2019