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An Important Letter on Lucy

Educators are continuously shifting their pedagogies as research identifies new approaches to increase literacy achievement. This willingness for teachers to self-reflect about their practice is a testament to their commitment to always do what's best for students. As the body of research on literacy in education, cognitive science, and developmental psychology grows, we are seeing more and more educators and fellow researchers embrace this same type of self-reflection and follow the data. Perhaps, the most poignant example of this is Lucy Calkins’ recent shift emphasizing explicit code focused instruction and the importance for students to interact with decodable text in younger grades. In a recent Teachers College document, Calkins referred to it as a “rebalancing.”

While we here at Learning Ovations fully support the shift towards these research driven practices, we do not underestimate the impact of millions of students missing the explicit code focused instruction that undoubtedly would have laid the foundation for their future success in later grades. Perhaps even more distressing is the messaging that was pursued in argument against literacy providers with strong code focused (phonics) components and the potential bias it created in school districts just looking for what is best for their students.

In a recent article in APM Reports, Emily Hanford stated that, “Calkins’ changing views could shift the way millions of children are taught to read. Her curriculum is the third most widely used core reading program in the nation, according to a 2019 Education Week survey. In addition, her group at Columbia works with teachers in at least 30 countries, including Mexico, Singapore and Japan.”

Learning Ovations celebrates Calkins’ shift in the direction towards cognitive science and how people truly learn to read, but contend that the “rebalancing” referenced above does not take the conversation far enough.

Students simply getting more code focused instruction is not sufficient and in some cases, actually not the right answer. Rather, we believe code and meaning focused instruction must be highly individualized for students not only in content, but duration and delivery.

Where Calkins’ “rebalancing” falls short is its lack of emphasis on the role of differentiation in code and meaning focused instruction - “rebalancing” may actually look very different for different students within the same classroom. That is, simply saying students need more code focused instruction in the younger grades is not enough to close the achievement gap like the A2i Professional Support System can (and is) closing the achievement gap.

While we applaud Calkins' embarking on the journey towards better integration of code focused instruction within her curriculum, Learning Ovations has been blazing the trail with 13 years of rigorously tested research and development, more than 2,000 hours of classroom observation, seven randomized control trials, 30+ journal articles and perhaps most importantly, with 94% of students within our A2i classrooms reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade.

We will continue to forge ahead and support research and practice until ALL students are reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade. That is our mission.

We invite all educators with the same mission to join us!

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