Thinking Citizen Blog — The Return of Phonics and the Retreat of Lucy Calkins

Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day

Today’s Topic — The Return of Phonics and the Retreat of Lucy Calkins

Why do only a third of American fourth and eighth graders read at grade level? Well, there are many reasons. But Lucy Calkins was one I had been completely unaware of until I came across an article on her in the New York Times. Today, a few excerpts. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THE POWER AND INFLUENCE OF LUCY CALKINS

1. “For decades, Lucy Calkins has determined how millions of children learn to read. An education professor, she has been a pre-eminent leader of “balanced literacy” a loosely defined teaching philosophy.”

2. “In a classic Calkins classroom, teachers read aloud from children’s literature; students then chose “just right” books which fit their interest and ability. The focus was more on stories — theme, character, plot — less on sounding out words.

3. Her curriculum, “Units of Study” is built on a vision of children as natural readers, and has been wildly popular and profitable. She estimates that a quarter of the country’s 67,000 elementary schools use it.”

NB: “At Columbia University’s Teachers College, she and her team have trained hundreds of thousands of educators.”

THE RETURN OF PHONICS

1. ‘But in recent years, parents and educators who champion the “science of reading” have fiercely criticized Professor Calkins and other supporters of balanced literacy.”

2. “They cite a half-century of research that shows phonics — sound it out exercises that are purposefully sequenced — is the most effective way to teach reading, along with books that build vocabulary and depth.”

3. “With brain science adding to that evidence, there is a sense — at least for many in the educational establishment — that the debate over early reading instruction may be ebbing. Phonics is ascendant.”

NB: “More than a dozen states have passed laws pushing phonics, and Denver and Oakland, California have moved to drop Professor Calkins’s program. In one of her largest markets, New York City, a dyslexic mayor and his schools chancellor are urging principals to select other curriculums.”

THE BACK PEDALING OF LUCY CALKINS

1. “A rewrite of her reading curriculum, from kindergarten to second grades, includes, for the first time, daily structured phonics lessons to be used with the whole class.”

2. “There are special books and assessments to track students’ progress with decoding letters.”

3. “And it swaps light reading assignments for more rigorous texts.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/22/us/reading-teaching-curriculum-phonics.html

Teachers College Reading and Writing Project — Wikipedia

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/research/supported/nrp

https://www.educationnext.org/can-teaching-be-improved-by-law-twenty-states-measures-reading/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonics#United_States

Reading — Wikipedia

THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED THEMATICALLY ARE AVAILABLE HERE:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

ATTACHMENTS BELOW:

#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20

YOUR TURN

Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to education or education policy. Or the coolest thought however half-baked you had. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to education or education policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random education-related fact that blew you away.

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something that is dear to your heart.

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