Revisiting America’s Reading Wars

As momentum builds to change reading instruction, Lucy Calkins, chief architect of popular method, retreats from prior stance.

(EWA Radio Episode 295)

Photo credit: Alliance for Excellent Education


For decades, millions of children have been taught to read using a popular method that’s out of step with the scientific research on how our brains really learn. Amid pushback and criticism – including from researchers, parents, and education journalists – that’s starting to change.

Dana Goldstein, national correspondent for The New York Times, shares the latest from her reporting on the growing pushback to the widely used “balanced literacy” approach advocated by Lucy Calkins, a charismatic professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Why is Calkins’ recent acknowledgment that her methods need revising  such a groundbreaking shift? What might this mean for how schools teach reading? Will the broader push to emphasize phonics produce a sea change in the nation’s literacy levels? What questions should education reporters ask local teachers about the materials and instructional models they use? And what are some story ideas on curriculum and instruction, especially amid recent efforts by some grassroots advocacy groups to put new limits on how – and what – students are taught?

This week’s episode of EWA Radio was sponsored by the Collaborative for Student Success. EWA retains all editorial control over the content of the podcast. 

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