SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: The Cracks Are Beginning to Show in the Cult of Lucy Calkins

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Cracks Are Beginning to Show in the Cult of Lucy Calkins

What a week it has been for Lucy Calkins and her cult of failure. Aside from being vilified on these pages twice in one week, yours truly had inquired, when confronted with "the students are not reading and writing" by a self important person high up the NYC DOE chain with the answer, "so why are we using a program like TC then?" Of course that question was met with silence.

But then lo and behold what is it that is gracing the pages of in the Op-Ed section of today's Daily News? Simply, a great piece by former NYC teacher at PS 277 in District 7, Robert Pondiscio ( I wonder if I know him from back in the day).

Robert brought up some really great points in his piece; in fact he educated me a great deal.  Without stepping on his toes, I would like to comment on some of the points he made.

....And the big news is that the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, a “balanced literacy” curriculum developed by literacy guru Lucy Calkins, was left off the city’s recommended list.

It would have been safe and easy to stay the course, since the city has spent tens of millions of dollars on this approach in the last decade. Instead, the Education Department is steering teachers in a different direction.

Here is what I wonder. Though it seems I might have some facts incorrect, it seems from what The Crack Team has picked up thus far it will still be a schools prerogative whether or not they stick with balanced literacy or shift to the new recommended curricula the DOE is introducing. 

Say for instance a school, let's say a school in which the entire administration has been brainwashed into believing balanced literacy works, and the leader of said administration believes the leader itself is never wrong keeps balanced literacy, then what? Should the administration share with the parents not only why but announce that balanced literacy is staying. How can such an administration justify this when up to 70% (numbers that expected) of schools across the city are using the recommended curricula? Who will be held responsible?

The reason for the poor performance is that Calkins and her acolytes have never fully understood the way kids learn to be fully literate.

True, because one thing that Calkins and her personality cult do understand is how to promote Lucy Calkins. This is nothing different than walking into an airport and seeing the Moonies and their deification of Rev. Moon. Only difference is the brain wished walking dead cultists of Calkins are not trying to pin a flower on you.

All of my students could decode words, which meant, technically, they could all read. But the vast majority struggled to make sense of the words in front of them and consistently demonstrate comprehension.
  In other words, for all they’d been taught about the skill of reading, they hadn’t been given the necessary knowledge to truly make sense of the words and sentences.

An aside, I always have believed that students do not get the skills to decode due to Calkins and her folly.

Several months ago a cultist of Lucy suggested some great books on friendship, character, etc... Ronde and Tiki Barber wrote a series of books, great books in fact, that revolve around kids football. It was heavily suggested that I read these books to the students. I had second thoughts (You'll see in a few words why) but I gave it the old college try.

I sat down with a 4th grade class and read. After 3 pages all I saw were blank looks and confusion. Not that they weren't interested, but the football lingo left them confused. Terms like first down, safety, wide receiver, tight end, flanker, linebacker, were foreign to them. Not just the girls mind you, but the boys! And these were boys that enjoyed football. 

It’s hard to understand even a simple story about baseball, for example, if you know nothing about baseball.

It's just not baseball, but so much more. It all comes back to the vocabulary. I wish I had the exact numbers, but the vocabulary of a Kindergarten student from the suburbs vs a student from the South Bronx is astronomical. And not just vocabulary, but life experiences as well.

They generally arrive in school with smaller vocabularies and less general knowledge than children who grow up in book-filled homes with educated parents who read to them, take them to museums and enrich their lives with everything from sports to dance classes.

Whoops, spoke, I mean, typed too soon. Though I might digress with Robert that educated parents just can read to the children and give them a worldwide experience. 

Teachers encourage children to choose books at a level that’s “just right” for them and read only what interests and engages them. That sounds sensible — we want kids to enjoy reading — but over time, it’s like eating only what you like instead of a well-rounded diet, or exercising only your biceps at the gym.

Great! So many times I have taken my son to Barnes and Noble to buy a book. He is in 6th grade and reads several grades above. He loves those sports themed novels, and anything sports. But I have made him, usually saying a sports themed book bought a classic or a fiction book or two must be bought. But better, his ELA teacher saw the pattern early this year and put the kibosh on Mike Lupica.

Its central premise is that an essential goal of reading instruction must be to ensure that all students — and disadvantaged kids most specifically — are explicitly taught the knowledge and vocabulary that speakers and writers assume they know.

It understands that science, history, geography, art, music and everything else a child learns contribute mightily to his or her ability to make sense of the world through reading.

In short, it stops treating reading comprehension as a skill to be taught and sees it as a reflection of everything a child learns about the world. The more children know, the more they can read with genuine comprehension.

Freaking beautiful.

In my opinion, in the opinion of The Crack Team, and humankind, not only would it be a travesty for any school administrator to continue using balanced literacy, but it would be child abuse, yes, a criminal act.

I hope Mr Pondiscio will contribute more to the Daily News. Would love to hear his opinion about Lucy's method of teaching writing.

1 comment:

Polo Colon said...

The rubber rooms were filled to capacity with great teachers who were judged on the impossible gotcha Lucy Calkins methodology, which was a bonanza for vicious, malicious and capricious incompetent administrators, because they could get ANY teacher on any aspect of it, for example, of the workshop model.

We should not forget that at the root of this wanton and abject failure was the incompent mayoral control promulgated by the likes of Bloomberg, his henchman, Klein and now, his sycophant, Walcott, another incompetent in a long line of education dunces!