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National and Local Literacy Coverage, LGBTQ Student Rights, and How Ed Impacts the Race for Governor

Hot Off the Presses: More National and Local Coverage on Settled Science of Reading

A week and a half ago, The New York Times (NYT) covered the back-peddling of Lucy Calkins—"a pre-eminent leader of 'balanced literacy'"—who now admits to rewriting her curriculum to better align with the science of reading. Calkins’ Units of Study, out of Columbia Teachers College, has been repeatedly discredited over the years. Calkins has long resisted the settled science about how human brains learn to read, but the NYT reports that a recent rewrite will finally incorporate structured phonics lessons; the updated curriculum will nevertheless also retain debunked strategies like cuing and relying on pictures to inform reading instruction. NYT observes that "critics may not be appeased" by Calkins' effort to protect her business after years of willfully ignoring the harm it was doing to children. It’s a story that has caught the attention of local media this week, as Connecticut begins to prepare for implementation of its recently passed “Right to Read” legislation.

The Day's editorial board observes that, beyond the well-settled body of research on the science of reading—"generations of parents can attest to the deficiencies of reading instruction in the last 25 years.” The piece argues that it's time we gave children the best reading start possible, by properly implementing "Right to Read.” But Calkins’ enthusiasts in some districts continue to hold out against a growing national movement to adjust early literacy curricula. According to the New Haven Independent, the New Haven Public School district is one of tens of thousands across the nation that has embraced the "balanced literacy" approach. Even pre-pandemic, on the 2018-19 administration of the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), only 30.1% of New Haven’s third graders met or exceeded expectations in English Language Arts—as compared to 54.3% of third graders across the state. But particularly telling is the coverage of two New Haven teachers who have switched from balanced literacy to structured literacy and seen impressive results for their students. And yesterday’s New Haven Register covered yet another New Haven teacher who said she “can’t imagine why the district could even be discussing the idea of continuing to do something that is not working."

Still, New Haven school administrators are purportedly "not convinced" about the science of reading and may try to pursue a waiver from the state from the requirement of implementing an evidence-based early literacy curriculum. Interestingly, waivers cited in the Right to Read legislation will not actually allow districts to opt out of the science of reading. The language is explicit, in fact, that a waiver can only be granted for a reading curriculum that is "evidence-based and scientifically based." (See PA 21-2, Sec. 394(d).)

LGBTQ Rights and Title IX

It’s the first day of Pride Month today. In a proclamation, the White House reflected upon the country's progress in the fight for justice, inclusion and equality—while acknowledging that the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Americans continue to be under attack. Indeed, just this Sunday, the Greenwich Time highlighted a story in which the local LGBTQ population and its allies questioned the school board's decision to remove inclusive language in its discrimination policy. Specifically, the board removed the reference to "gender identity or sexual orientation" from the original draft—a change that critics are saying mimics the Florida "Don't Say Gay" law. Edson Rivas and Colin Hosten of Triangle Community Center published an opinion in CT Viewpoints on this issue earlier last month, asking: if Greenwich's Title IX policy is designed to cover all students, why go through the trouble of changing it to remove protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity? "It almost seems as though... [they want] to pretend that the LGBTQ+ community doesn't exist," they asserted. The opinion contrasts the move in Greenwich with deliberate measures to ensure greater equitability from other local boards like Norwalk and Stamford.

For more on how to safeguard the rights of LGBTQ students, join our national affiliate, Education Reform Now, in its upcoming conversation on June 14th, "Combating the Culture Wars: How We Protect LGBTQ Students."

The State of Education and the Race for Governor

In case you missed it, a Quinnipiac Poll on Thursday showed Governor Ned Lamont with an 8-point lead over Republican challenger Bob Stefanowski. According to the CT Mirror's reporting, the poll shows that there are both advantages and disadvantages to the name recognition associated with incumbency. Lamont gets credit for his management of the pandemic, but voters are also worried about the economy.

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