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Proposal aims to get New Haven students extra help with reading and math

Woodley Elementary third grade students write their names into newly donated dictionaries at the school.
Eric J. Shelton
Hattiesburg American
Woodley Elementary third grade students write their names.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker has proposed a citywide literacy and math initiative to provide afterschool and summer tutoring for students in first to fifth grades.

Elicker wants New Haven to spend $3 million in federal aid for the city’s education partners to build out a tutoring program for public school students to catch up on learning lost during the pandemic. The program needs approval from the city Board of Alders.

“They’ll be pulled out of their program twice a week and have either a volunteer or some paid persons give more intensive training,” Elicker said.

The initiative would start next year with about 300 students and eventually grow to about 1,500 by the summer of 2025.

“Up to third grade, every child is learning to read,” Elicker said. “After that, a child reads to learn. If a child doesn’t have the foundation, they can’t learn so many other vital skills.”

Elicker blames low testing scores on the lack of classroom time and slowed learning due to the pandemic.

Last year, less than 17% of New Haven third graders met or exceeded state proficiency standards in English Language Arts, and only 13% of third graders were competent in math, compared to over 46% of students in both subjects statewide.

Studies found that students who are not proficient in reading by the end of the third grade were four times more likely to drop out of high school.

“Although it’s not reflected in the scores shared today, our teachers, our school leaders, and our staff work extremely hard, and they are to be commended for the work they do day in and day out,” said Keisa Red-Hannans, the assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment at New Haven Public Schools.

The New Haven Federation of Teachers, which represents over 1,800 teachers, librarians and social service workers in the district, also renewed calls for additional staffing and resources to combat to address a significant teacher shortage.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.