Critics Respond to Calkins’ Position Statement about Science of Reading

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Volume 8, Issue 4
December 2019

From the Examiner Editorial Board

Just before Thanksgiving, Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading & Writing Project posted Lucy Calkins’ seven-page position statement in response to “phonics-centric people” titled, “No One Gets to Own the Term, ‘The Science of Reading.’” Even with the holiday around the corner, her statement attracted considerable attention, and despite a few concessions, she received some pointed criticism. We applaud efforts to search for common ground in reading instruction, but the critiques are significant. The links below—from Education Week, Margaret Goldberg, Pamela Snow, and Mark Seidenberg—will help busy readers catch up on this development and ponder some of the criticism.

  1. Education Week/Teacher:Lucy Calkins, Creator of Reading Workshop, Responds to ‘Phonics-Centric People.’” This article provides a good overview and helpful context.
  1. Right to Read Project: Dear Lucy.” Margaret Goldberg—who attended the Teachers College Reading and Writing Program Foundational Skills Institute in 2016—directly challenges Calkins’ assertion that three-cueing is just an assessment system and isn’t used as an instructional strategy. Goldberg also shares her own experience diving into reading science and finding her world “upended.” She encourages Calkins to help bring classroom practices across the country closer to reading science.
  1. The Snow Report: “Running with the Hare and Hunting with the Hound. My Response to Lucy Calkins’ ‘Science of Reading’ Essay.” Pamela Snow argues in her blog that Calkins resorts to several straw-man arguments in her position statement and that her concessions do not go far enough. Snow concludes, “…on every page, Calkins’ true Whole Language/Balanced Literacy biases seep through, revealing that though she wants to be on the right side of history, she is running with the hare and hunting with the hound. However, that is not how science works.”
  2. Reading Matters: “This Is Why We Don’t Have Better Readers: Response to Lucy Calkins.” In his blog, Mark Seidenberg asserts that Calkins is trying to “protect her brand, her market share, and her standing among her many followers.” His critique offers a larger historical context and blames Calkins and the educational establishment for failings such as the 2019 NAEP scores. Seidenberg acknowledges that Calkins’ recognition of dyslexia is a positive step, but argues that her “attempt to wrap her work in the mantle of science fails because she has yet to absorb basic findings that contradict the tenets of her approach.” He predicts that Calkins and other curriculum authors and publishers will follow her lead and claim that their products are compatible with the science of reading.


Copyright © 2019 International Dyslexia Association (IDA). Opinions expressed in The Examiner and/or via links do not necessarily reflect those of IDA.