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New York City schools will revamp reading program after national study showed significant decline in test scores

National study shows test scores decline post-pandemic
National study shows test scores decline post-pandemic 03:37

NEW YORK -- A disturbing national study shows the COVID pandemic's devastating educational costs for the first time. 

The report compared scores of 9-year-olds across the country from this year to 2020. In reading, the average score decreased five points - the largest drop since 1990. In math, scores dropped seven points - the first time ever that math scores dropped. 

Thursday, New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks spoke about the issue with CBS2's political reporter Marcia Kramer. 

While the study is certainly upsetting, especially since it notes minority students were hit the hardest, Banks said he was by no means shocked because he's been seeing it on the ground since he took the job in January.

Banks said he has a strategy to turn things around. 

"I feel personally that our approach to the teaching of reading has been fundamentally flawed," said Banks. 

So step one in the Department of Education's strategy to make up for COVID learning deficits is to totally revamp how school children are taught to read.

Instead of what he described as "balanced literacy," where kids see a picture and guess what the word is, "We're going back to kind of the old school way of teaching reading, a very phonetic approach to the teaching of reading, which we've gotten away from quite honestly during the last 25 years," said Banks. 

Banks said he's especially concerned about the study finding regarding the pandemic deficit among minority students. For example, Black students lost 13 points in math. White students lost five. 

"Can the school system make this up? Or will this affect people, this generation for the rest of their lives?" asked Kramer. 

"Well I'm certainly hopeful that we can make it up as quickly as we possibly can. But we don't know how quickly that will be able to take place. Our kids have suffered tremendous academic loss, tremendous social and emotional loss as well, and it's all connected," said Banks. 

The chancellor's strategy also calls for exposing and stimulating kids outside the classroom. 

"Making sure that our kids get a chance to go visit cultural institutions around New York City. The whole world lives here and we should be exposing our kids to just so many new and exciting things all across the city," said Banks. 

Mona Davids of the New York City Parents Union said she supports the chancellor's plan to change how reading is taught. Davids blamed some of the learning deficit on the previous administration, which pushed to keep schools closed. 

"I blame Mayor de Blasio. I blame former Schools Chancellor Carranza," Davids said. "It's not rocket science. What you need to do is academic intervention, after school tutoring, extended school day, Saturday school. It's all hands on deck." 

Michael Mulgrew, president of the teachers union, also supports the reading changes. Mulgrew wants a definitive plan from the DOE with input from teachers. 

"We definitely need a better plan and, more importantly, a plan that, you design the plan by allowing the people who do the work have an active part in the plan," Mulgrew said. 

Banks said it would also help if parents read with their kids and take them to the library to pick out books.

And yes, maybe less screen time, too.

Watch Marcia Kramer's entire interview with New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6 on our streaming special "Back-to-School Blueprint" on CBS News New York. They talk everything impacting students this year and answer your questions. 

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