Phi Beta Cons

Nightmare from Teachers College

Columbia Teachers College continues to exert its deleterious influence on New York City’s public schools through the ever inventive techniques of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, adopted by Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein in 2003 in place of sound, proven, phonics-based instruction.  Next year “literacy coaches” will be unleashed upon many teachers in a coercive effort to fulfill project head Lucy Calkins’s desire to “radically transform schools.”  The coaches, probably young women in the main, will stand next to experienced teachers in front of their classes in order to train and instruct them in Calkins’s techniques.  Resistance is anticipated, but principals must force teachers to comply.    
An experienced New York City public school teacher emails with rising alarm:  

The word really needs to get out; the situation is  atrocious. Thanks to TC [Teachers College] and Bloomberg, we are losing a whole generation of  immigrant children here in NY.  There is wide consensus among experts in the fields of cognitive psychology and neurology that explicit, phonics-based reading instruction has been validated by research, and is, by far, the most effective method of reading instruction. Yet, granola-headed, obscurantist charlatans like Lucy Calkins continue to experiment with children, leaving them functionally illiterate….What good does it do to reform CUNY by raising standards, only to find that the majority of potential students won’t be able to read a CUNY application? We need a multi-ethnic grassroot revolt against the Bloomberg-Klein-Calkins axis of illiteracy; there are plenty of teachers and parents who are disgusted enough to act….

The writer suggests that Herman Badillo, perhaps along with his wife, another experienced public school teacher, might get involved in advancing phonics-based reading curricula on a system-wide basis.  He continues, however, in a reproach to some of the conservative agenda regarding the schools:

What is depressing,is that  conservative newspapers like the Sun and the Post continue to defend  the Bloomberg reforms, mindlessly parroting propaganda generated by the PR machine at Tweed [the New York City Department of Education]. This despite publishing the superb exposes on academic failure by Sol Stern and Andrew Wolf.  It seems their real agenda was never educational reform, but union busting and tenure destruction. The kids were just an excuse.  Incidentally, without tenure, those of us who use the best practices, and resist TC intimidation, would have been fired a long time ago.  

Conservatives should stop their futile crusades against unions and tenure and get behind those teachers and parents who want to bring proven curricula into the schools.  And while they’re at it, they should work toward improving discipline in the schools as well, so that teachers not exhaust themselves trying to keep order, and more able people join the ranks of the profession.