SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: Lucy Calkins and Her Teacher's College Cult of Failure

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lucy Calkins and Her Teacher's College Cult of Failure


Would you feed someone that has high cholesterol, or heart problems KFC's Double Down (bacon, cheese, sauce, between two pieces of chicken), mashed potatoes w/gravy, and a mashed potato bowl? No.

Would you throw someone who is drowning a cinder block instead of a life preserver? No.

So why is it that in chronically poverty stricken  areas of NYC, where students come into kindergarten lagging so far behind, where each day it is a struggle to learn, where they don't get support at home, why is it we as real educators continually get shoved down our throats the teachings of the cult of Teacher's College reading and writing crap, led by its supreme leader Lucy Calkins? A person that has never ever taught a day in her life.

The cult of TC is leading our students down a path towards ignorance and the inability to read. As one leading educator has shared with the Crack Team, "TC is making our children in NYC dumber than wood."

But what is it about TC that is so bad, so dangerous to the minds of our students? Simply put, the basic tenants of reading and writing are ignored.

Students do not learn any grammar, there are no writing mechanics to speak of. TC relies on independent work, even for the most left behind student.

With all this testing being foisted upon students and relying solely upon test scores to evaluate teachers, with an ELA tests that emphasizes, and states, spelling and grammar are paramount, TC provides none of the basics for the students to do well on the ELA exam.

Decoding, fluency, are lacking. TC offers no practice books to develop writing skills. Zero skills books. Teaching vocabulary is frowned upon as is spelling.

Our students are becoming illiterate and no one above the rank of "teacher" seems to care. This is the damage that TC's program is doing to our students, to our schools, to our communities, to children's futures.

We can not teach, and students can not learn, without the basics the same way a pitcher can't throw a fastball with out the basics, the same way a batter can't hit without the basics. As these children get older and they are reading to learn and not learning to read anymore where will there skills sets be to learn how to decode with words they don not know? These skills are vital to learn at a young age for they last a lifetime. I should know! From the ages of 4-9 I was in speech therapy for a major articulation issue. I remember in my 20's I was reading something aloud and had difficulty pronouncing a word. A friend of mine (who happened to be a speech therapist) told me that she could tell I was in speech therapy, that I was still using the skills I learned so many years earlier. Our students today are not acquiring any lasting skills.

Teacher's College can cost up to $1,600 a day, Surely, there are better ways for a school to spend their monies. More troubling is how anyone in their right mind in a position of leadership and decision making can allow the infiltration of the TC cult into a school. Schools are abandoning TC left and right, right and left. Ask yourself Lucy, how many schools in Westchester County get suckered by you? The only reason one implement TC is to go with the flow, to conform, to follow the leader. The mindless always follow the crowd.

As long as we are damaging the students, let's just feed them White Castle cheeseburgers, fries, and milk shakes at lunch. But there would be howls of protests if we do. Where are the same howls at those wishing and contributing to the demise of students by implementing Teacher's College's Reading and Writing Project. It is time to step up.


32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bring back SRA, McCall-Crabbs, and the Scott Foresman "Dick and Jane" series! That stuff was classic!

Actually, I entered nursery school knowing how to read.

I learned from watching TV program titles during the opening and closing billboards, and product labels and superimposed graphics during the commercials.

Polo Colon said...

Lucy and her ilk promoted the abandoned or modified
"Workshop Model" which became a tool for getting rid of the most qualified and experienced senior teachers, a "gotcha" BONANZA FOR A LOT OF "ADMINISTRATORS-GONE-WILD"! The AGWs loved it for how easily they could set up teachers and put them up on incompetence charges for not following every jot and tittle of the new ordinance. It was a witch-hunt tool used in the pedagogicde being perpetrated against America and the world that replicates its diabolical aims, which is to give administrators totalitarian powers for the denial of due process and tenure. Columbia University has been stained terribly by her tenure there. And of couse, the absolute idiocy of Bloomberg, Klein, Black, Walcott and the Panel for Educational Policy benefited by her work in developing the hatchet work they greedily employed.

Anonymous said...

I am a reading teacher and everything that TC teaches about early literacy is in direct cinflict with wjat we know about how children learn to read. I made a comment in grad school about how this " reading by osmosis" idea wasn't much better than having the kids sleep with books under their pillows. I now teach 8th grade and see how 10+ years iof this has left us with a generation that can't read or write.

Anonymous said...

She actually taught for quite a few years before getting her PhD, and has spent a lot of time in hundreds (if not thousands) of classrooms.

The fact that you misspell her name also undermines your argument.

I'd also love to see your evidence that schools are abandoning the TCRWP. My understanding is that they're more popular than ever before, at least based on event attendance and the success of they Project's books.

Anonymous said...

My school had thrown TC Reading & Writing workshop out the window after a major parent revolt last year.
Luckily for us, parents saw the writing on the wall and pressured administration to bring back a REAL literacy curriculum.

Anonymous said...

All we have to do is keep in mind that it was Klein & Bloomberg who shoved Luck Calkins and TC down everyone's throats.
Need we say more??

http://nymag.com/news/features/16775/

Bronx Teacher said...

To anonymous @ 12:56 PM. Is that the best argument you can come up with? That I put an E instead of instead of an I in her last name? Every hear of a TYPO?

As far as her teaching creds, explain where and when she has taught. In fact, prove that TC works at all.

Oh by the way, you should be one to talk.

....at least based on event attendance and the success of they Project's books.

But I am sure that is just a typo, correct?

Teachie said...

When a school invests in Teachers College staff development, a great deal of money is spent on staff developers from TC, aka consultants.
Little if any money is left over for skills practice books which kids need.
What do kids have ???
About 10 notebooks
10 folders
1000 pkgs of Post Its

And let`s not forget their selection of their own "just right" books.

What a scam...

Ms. Tsouris said...

I know for a fact that the Teachers' College/Calkins hoax was perpetrated on high scoring schools such as MS67 in eastern Queens. I also know that the horrible principal at that school instituted a TC-only policy by hauling away (to somewhere in New Jersey) all the English anthologies, which were unfortunately full of classic, well-known literature. This was an act that was tantamount to book-burning. It broke the hearts of the (of course) veteran English teachers who'd been using those basic literature texts with success for many years. The principal replaced the literature with the TC leveled claptrap and expected positive results. The powers that be are dumbing down the next generation so they can be a desired product-an obedient uncritical corporate drone. This past decade has been a horror for true education and intellect, with scam artists like Calkins, and of course our "leaders" here in NYC at the forefront.

Anonymous said...

Go to Hamburg educational ethics and search Lucy Calkins, thanks to that blog we shut down the Lucy Calkins program and the expenses that were to follow.

JW said...

Exactly as Ms Tsouris describes for Wagner (MS167) in mid-Manhattan as well. The book-burning image is really good. Also denuding the shelves. They gave away a lot of the good stuff to anyone who'd take it out of the building.
The "easy-read" replacements included stories of abuse and rape. Just the ticket in this art-starved city. The savvy 8th-graders in the school told us they had whipped through a lot of these books by the 5th grade.
By the way: check out the publishers of the replacement books. McGraw Hill? other ed-deform companies? To stock a huge city with this kind of literature must have been a huge windfall for some lucky companies.

Magnolia Girl said...

Bronx Teacher, I may have to disagree with you on just a few points.

I am not a HUGE supporter of the TC R/W Workshop model. If I have to hear 1 more Joy Cowley story I may have to hurl.

However, I do have to point that I do not believe that this is what Lucy Caulkins originally designed TC for. It was originally supposed to tailor and fit into the classroom where the teacher can build around it using other resources. The Teacher's College program should be treated for what it is, a supplement and nothing more.

However, due to Lucy Caulkins 'selling out', her program went completely viral and is being used extremely inappropriately which was never the intention that Lucy originally had in mind for her project.

Last, many Queens schools (districts 25, 26, 28, 29) have been throwing out TC in their schools and moving to other choices. These schools jumped on the TC bandwagon before it 'became viral'. In fact, some of these schools still using the writing units to incorporate into their class curricular units because its being treated as it should be, a supplement.

Hamburg Alum said...

If you think Lucy Calkins is a nut job, check out her sister Joan Calkins. She is an MD, but claims she is a pediatric specialist...but no records can be found. Joan Calkins the sister of Lucy is the school board president in Hamburg NY, google Hamburg school ethics for the scoop. Someone tried to get Joan Calkins removed from the BOE because she is a liar, and she was caught on tape lying, but Lucy got the commissioner to dismiss. How close are Lucy Calkins and Commissioner King...we heard very close. Anyone can comment on the Hamburg School Ethics Blog. These Calkins women are nuts.

Anonymous said...

tenants~tenets

Anonymous said...

I am so tired of giving kids "Just Right Books" with no instruction except for a 10-15 min. pep talk. The kids have no grammar, spelling or skills books. Infact "Workbook" is a dirty word! I have to research everything I teach because what I have for a curriculum just isn't doing the job for me. After 20+ years of teaching, I am finding it repulsive that we are going with the flow. I don't have enough of anything for my class and my every moment is micromanaged for TC-Lucy. I was told to get on the bandwagon or find a new district. I am sincerly frustrated by the Osmosis way to teach.

Anonymous said...

On the other side of the equation, our district is just now coming back to this after years of workbook and basal drill and kill skill practice. Our scores stagnated, kids were disengaged, school was drudgery. Now we are seeing kids reading again, for pleasure! They talk books with each other, read thoughtfully and actually , heaven forbid, like school! Maybe it doesnt work for everyone, but as a teacher and parent, I'm thrilled my daughter is being educated this way. And we are still teaching vocab, spelling and grammar. I am wondering how it was implemented in schools where it failed....

Anonymous said...

I would have to say that I am a supporter of the workshop model, whether it be Lucy's version of another. I have seen it ignite a passion for reading with our students and they are writing more than they ever have before. The conversations between students are high-level and focus on more than "What word in that sentence is a vowel". I have never been a supporter of worksheet practice or drill and kill. In my 20+ years of teaching, neither has done justice for those kids who need it the most. The most wonderful part of the workshop model is its inherent differentiation: seeing kids where they are and scaffolding them to the next level - Vygotsky got it right when he coined the term "Zone of proximal development" and this model targets right in on each individual child's strengths and weaknesses. I have seen a love of reading be re-ignited in my students who no longer have to read to p. 18 and answer questions 1-10 (which never did them any good anyway). I instead get to see them make connections, ask questions of the characters, form opinions based on the actions of the characters, become engrossed in a nonfiction topic because it was their question to begin with. Before we throw the baby out with the proverbial bath water, let's remember that a scripted approach is still a basal - the workshop model is meant to be shaped and formed by your own observations as a teacher. We are there to teach, not regurgitate information - let your students be your guide.

Anonymous said...

I would have to say that I am a supporter of the workshop model, whether it be Lucy's version of another. I have seen it ignite a passion for reading with our students and they are writing more than they ever have before. The conversations between students are high-level and focus on more than "What word in that sentence is a vowel". I have never been a supporter of worksheet practice or drill and kill. In my 20+ years of teaching, neither has done justice for those kids who need it the most. The most wonderful part of the workshop model is its inherent differentiation: seeing kids where they are and scaffolding them to the next level - Vygotsky got it right when he coined the term "Zone of proximal development" and this model targets right in on each individual child's strengths and weaknesses. I have seen a love of reading be re-ignited in my students who no longer have to read to p. 18 and answer questions 1-10 (which never did them any good anyway). I instead get to see them make connections, ask questions of the characters, form opinions based on the actions of the characters, become engrossed in a nonfiction topic because it was their question to begin with. Before we throw the baby out with the proverbial bath water, let's remember that a scripted approach is still a basal - the workshop model is meant to be shaped and formed by your own observations as a teacher. We are there to teach, not regurgitate information - let your students be your guide.

Bronx Teacher said...

And where is it you teach? The demographics?

Anonymous said...

Just my two cents, but the reading and writing workshops are not the end all be all in the teaching of literacy in the classrooms.... the other important piece of balanced literacy is word/phonics study and also guided reading. If a teacher is truly teaching with the balanced literacy framework, you can cover all the bases.

Mr. Buxton said...

No single system exists that is perfect. There are elements of perfection in every system. (Especially TC) Smart teachers take the best out of TC and combine it with other proven good practices.
Isn't that the teacher's role?

Anonymous said...

Everything about the workshop model seems to be aimed at students who can already read. I cannot conceive of a universe in which young students, particularly those who failed to intuit phonological awareness, actually learned to pull the print off the page. Reading is a skill amd science has repeatedly demonstrated that skills cannot be learned in 10 minute mini lessons, no matter how focused the lessons are. I love how supporters of the workshop model give lip service to explicit teaching, then demonstrate everything that is the opposite of explicit. What crap is being foisted on students! If your doctor attempted to treat you similarly, you collect millions from the malpractice judgement!

Anonymous said...

I was a school teacher with a decade of classroom experience, mostly in East Harlem. I then went on to create one of the first and most popular online youth publications for well over a decade. One of the greatest influences of my teaching was the Writing Workshop classes. It was the earlier years so maybe things have changed, but I continue to run into or via FaceBook encounter former students who say they became regular readers and writers in good part due to my teaching methods where I employed many of the TC Writing Workshop practices. I had the largest library in the school outside the regular library. We had publishing parties, produced a school newspaper, put on plays culled from their reading and classroom performances. I attribute what I learned at TCWW with much of my success in the classroom and in running the youth media program that won awards around the world.

Anonymous said...

BRAVO!!!! Here you go little 5/6 year old- choose your own book and read for an hour! If I can try I will confer with you for 5 minutes and then send you back-GUIDED READING works! Each child should be met with EACH day!!! Ive been teaching a long time and am sickened by what they expect these kids to do.... no wonder they are so stressed and over-medicated trying to sit for 7 hours! They are kids, they need basic skills, word work, strategies to thrive- stop putting the cart before the horse.

Anonymous said...

So true. I teach science and I am appalled every year at the lack of grammar, spelling, and phonetic issues due to this program. Spelling and grammar do count in the real world. So sad administrators have no common sense.

Anonymous said...

Lets go back to workbooks and Dick and Jane....Smart. Each child doing the exact. same. thing. Smart.

TC works. It is powerful work. Kids enjoy the work. It is up to teachers to differentiate, motivate, engage, and instruct. FOR EACH CHILD.

TC project schools are amazing places where students excel and thrive. The teachers teach their hearts out, and give their all. The same goes for TC employees.

We are teaching these children to be thinkers, to be metacognitive, to know that they have a voice in the world. No work book can teach that.

And before you judge my beliefs I come from a Reading First background, complete with basals, Dibels, and copious amounts of $. That mentality does not work. Since moving to a TC model I've seen kids thrive and become stronger readers/writers/thinkers/talkers than ever before.

Tim said...

I think it is so ironic that the author yearns for the drill and kill grammar instruction of yesteryear, and at the same time uses "can not" for "cannot". That is NOT a typo!

Wow, those worksheets and practice books really worked well for you.

Mindless spew.

Anonymous said...

Demographics doesn't matter. TCRWP fails children in every socioeconomic group. My children attended an elementary school, in an affluent district that "facilitated" this crap. My children spent the majority of their day reading a "just right" book that was way below their actual level because they needed to "stop and jot" with post its. My 4th grader spent 8 weeks writing a me-centric personal narrative. Something that she could have written in 1 hour at home. Meanwhile she doesn't know what a preposition is. My second grader doesn't know the difference between a short vowel sound and a long vowel sound. But supposedly she can write a thesis statement. The whole program is a joke. I've hired a tutor to teach my children the basics. I've come to the conclusion that "parent involvement" means that we need to hire someone to teach our children (or teach them ourselves) because this bull crap "guide on the side" does diddly squat. So sick of these "cart before the horse" curriculums.

Anonymous said...

Even though the original blog info in from a couple years ago, nothing has changed. I know because it is being shoved down my throat and it is 2016! I'm not in the city. I'm a teacher on white bread LI.

Anonymous said...

So grateful to find this article even though it was written four years ago. I am homeschooling a kindergarten age child who started reading at the age of three. However, I am old school and have been focusing on phonics, spelling and language before teaching writing. As a former public school teacher I was a first hand witness to the disaster that ensued from teaching writing to students who don't have the proper foundation to be effective writers. Multiple internet (and my friends who still teach in public school) sites are rife with examples of how and why we should be teaching writing in kindergarten with no mention of building grammar or spelling skills. I was beginning to get a complex. Thanks for bringing me back to reality. A house built on a faulty foundation is destined to collapse.

Anonymous said...

Well you are right. TC targets the high achieving schools...just look at Darien, CT. Best of all, TC is now moving into middle school! The fact is TCWW is meant to supplement. However, districts and TC are using it for canned courses of study. It is a model that can, and does, work when properly aligned to foundational curricula.

Unknown said...

Agree