Universal Literacy

Instructional coaches are a vital but underused resource in increasing student success. By supporting and empowering them, schools can jump-start real improvement. - Wolpert-Gawron, June 2016, The Many Roles of an Instructional Coach

What is Universal Literacy?

The Universal Literacy Initiative launched in 2016 with the goal of ensuring that all students are reading on grade level by the end of second grade. Reading coaches help grade K-2 teachers build their knowledge base and skill level around instruction, curriculum, and assessment. During the 2018-2019 school year, a team of approximately 500 reading coaches will support grade K-2 teachers at elementary schools citywide.

The After School Reading Club (ARC) is also part of the Universal Literacy Initiative. The ARC program provides literacy enrichment to children grades K-5 living in homeless shelters throughout New York City. Now in its third year, ARC will serve about 1,200 students. The program serves children in shelters as well as elementary schools.

What supports are provided to schools through the Universal Literacy Initiative?

  • A dedicated and highly trained reading coach, who provides instructional coaching to grade K-2 teachers to ensure students are reading on grade level by the end of second grade.
  • Differentiated professional learning opportunities for grade K-2 teachers led by their assigned Universal Literacy Reading Coach.
  • Family workshops and newsletters to share tips and resources on early literacy with families.
  • Instructional resources to facilitate literacy instruction and/or funds to purchase needed literacy materials and other resources to support the work of teachers and students.
  • Support from an assigned Instructional Specialist who oversees the work of the Universal Literacy Reading Coach and acts as the liaison between the school and the Early Literacy Team.

Year 2 Universal Literacy Evaluation Report

The main purposes of the SY 2017–18 Year 2 (Y2) evaluation were to:

  • Track metrics about the initiative’s reach;
  • Learn about the initiative’s implementation, in order to:
    • Provide formative results that the program team can use to inform planning and improvement;
    • Document successes and challenges related to implementation and sustainability; and
  • Analyze early impacts, including the extent to which the presence of a reading coach influences the reading scores of Grade 2 students.

You can view the Year 2 Universal Literacy Evaluation Report online.

Communication with the Early Literacy Team

School and district leaders should email UniversalLiteracy@schools.nyc.gov with any inquires and for access to our SharePoint site for school leaders.


Below are some key resources to support reading and writing instruction for coaches, school leaders, and grade K-2 classroom teachers.

The National Reading Panel Report: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. The Pre-K - 2 Framework for Early Literacy: This publication provides guidance and support for successful literacy teaching and learning in the early childhood years and includes grade-by-grade content overviews that align to the 6 pillars of literacy model. Universal Literacy Resource Packet This toolkit created by P.S. 23 contains early literacy resources and guidance for coaches, school leaders, and classroom teachers. The toolkit includes recommendations for school leaders, tips and tricks for coaches, a sample literacy instruction schedule, a classroom chart resource, and strategies and ideas for engaging families as literacy partners.
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