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Lucy Culkins retreats in acoustic technique in the fight for a reading curriculum

Lucy Culkins retreats in acoustic technique in the fight for a reading curriculum

The curriculum, which goes on sale this summer, also includes a 20-page guide for teachers summarizing 50 years of cognitive reading research.

“We are all imperfect,” she said in an interview at her office located above the Columbia campus. “Over the last two or three years, what I’ve learned from the science of reading has changed.”

Perhaps this does not inspire advertising of political campaigns, as does critical racial theory, but the debate on how to teach children to read – perhaps a fundamental skill of all schooling – was just as demanding for some parents, educators and politicians. For decades, classroom practice has faltered back and forth, and acoustics have come and gone.

Margaret Goldberg, a literacy coach in the Gulf area and a leader in the science of reading, said Professor Culkins ’changes could not eliminate the damage done to generations of students. Even before the pandemic widened inequality in education, only one-third American fourth- and eighth-graders were read at the grade level. Blacks, Latinos, and low-income children suffer the most.

“As many teachers as me have believed that a professor at the College of Education, an Ivy League institution, should be aware of reading research,” she said. “The fact that she was disconnected from this study is evidence of a problem.”

How Professor Culkins eventually affected tens of millions of children is, in a sense, the history of education in America. Unlike many developed countries, the United States lacks a national curriculum or teacher training standards. Local policies are constantly changing as governors, school boards, mayors and superintendents get in and out of work.

Amid this outflow, a single charismatic thinker, backed by universities and publishers, can wield enormous power over how and what children learn.

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