In the urgent debate about how American schools teach children to read, some figures like Lucy Calkins have taken center stage. Literacy Professor and Curriculum Entrepreneur.
For four decades, his organization, the Teachers College Reading and Writing Program, and his widely purchased curriculum have sparked interest among many educators. But there was also a serious pushback. Critics said Dr. Calkins downplays and ignores phonology A large body of scientific research How children become proficient readers.
Now his group has been disbanded Teachers College, Columbia University, according to a recent report Notice His company, housed on campus and consisting of a nonprofit arm and several private companies, has long shared some of its revenue through consulting and publications with the college.
It marks the end of an era for teachers’ colleges and another setback for balanced literacy, Dr. Calkins is one of many prominent leaders of this movement.
“Moving forward, TC wants to foster more conversations and collaborations between different evidence-based approaches to literacy, and ensure that our programs are aligned with the needs of our partners, teachers and school districts,” the statement said.
Dr. Calkins, 71, is a tenured professor on sabbatical. Last week, he announced the creation of a new organization, the Mossflower Reading and Writing Project, to continue his work consulting with schools. Many of his staff from Teachers College are joining the new independent firm.
Teachers College and Dr. The rift between Calkins and Calkins comes amid intense political pressure on education schools to better align teacher training with research.
From 2019 onwards, 42 states They have passed laws requiring schools or teacher training programs to use research-supported reading strategies.
Those bills Dr. Calkins and his organization presented a challenge.
Critics of his views, including some Cognitive scientists And Instruction expertsShe said the curriculum was ignored Decades of settled research, often referred to as the science of reading. Direct, carefully sequenced instruction in phonics, vocabulary building, and comprehension by Dr. That body of research suggests that it’s more effective for young readers than Calkins’. Relaxed approach.
In her curriculum, teachers conducted “mini-lenses” on reading strategies, but gave students plenty of time for silent reading and the freedom to choose their own books. Proponents say these methods empower kids, but critics say they waste precious classroom minutes and allow students to ramble on too-easy texts.
Some of the practices he once favored, such as prompting children to guess words using the first letter and context cues, were examples. Devalued.
In the past three years, several major school districts — including the nation’s largest, New York City — have abandoned his plan, although it remains widely used.
In an interview, KerryAnn O’Meara, Teachers College’s new vice president for academic affairs, said this summer Dr. The school decided to part ways with Calkins’ advisory board as part of an effort to restructure its broader reading program. Instruction. The college hopes to hire new faculty members with more expertise in the cognitive science of reading, and may start new training programs for teachers online, she said.
“When you build a center or an institution, sometimes that work grows and changes a little bit,” Dr. O’Meara said. “There’s a lot of ways we can improve.”
Dr. Some of Calkins’ former deputies are staying at the college, where they will create a new division called Literacy Advancement and train teachers using a broader range of curricula and practices, the school said.
Dr. Calkins declined an interview request. In an email to The New York Times, he wrote that he created his new company “as a way to renew my commitment to working with faculty in schools without the complications of being part of a large university.”
She has also launched a website called Rebalancing Literacy, taking on misconceptions about her work and research on reading.
In recent years, Dr. Calkins and her colleagues forcefully argue that, while phonics is important, policymakers and the news media overemphasize it to the detriment of instruction that focuses on other reading skills.
However, in a 2022 interview with the New York Times, Dr. Calkins acknowledged that he had learned from his critics. For years, he said, he was completely immersed in school classrooms and did not focus on cognitive science research. “I don’t think I ever thought of the MRI machine as part of how you get to know a reader,” he said.
At universities across the country, leaders in curriculum and instruction rarely work closely with experts in brain science, who often do not translate their knowledge into classroom materials.
The problem is a two-way street, said Rachel Gabriel, a literacy professor at the University of Connecticut. For scholars in the sciences, he said, there may be little professional reward in partnering with elementary school teachers.
Dr. Calkins holds a Ph.D. He started his career as an expert in English education and writing. He based his views on reading on the work of New Zealand-based literacy theorist Mary Clay and Ohio State University education professors Irene Foundas and Kay Su Pinnell.
Educators are all concerned with balanced literacy dominant Among the teacher training colleges of the country.
This year, Dr. Calkins published a new edition of his reading curriculum for the early grades. It includes structured phonics, and offers books for young children with great content from history and science. Even some longtime critics saw the changes as a step forward, though it’s unclear how many schools actually adopted the new materials.
This move helped calm the debate around her and balance literacy more broadly.
Timothy Shanahan, a leading literacy expert and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. The rift between Calkins’ advisory group and the Teachers College is a reminder of a common problem in academia: Universities can find themselves at a disadvantage. A faculty member should be closely related to the business enterprise.
He said, “That’s how universities should be” and praised the college’s manifesto, which commits to diverse approaches to reading.
Mark Seidenberg, a neuroscientist and reading expert at the University of Wisconsin and a long-time critic of Dr. Calkins’ ideas, cautioned that there is still a long way to go.
“Places like teacher’s colleges really do have something to contribute, but that means going outside their established boundaries,” he said, noting the need to hire teachers who specialize in reading through the lens of psychology, cognitive science and linguistics. “It was easier to figure out what was wrong with previous approaches like Calkins and then figure out what’s next.”