Professor Lucy Calkins of Columbia University has a long history of being divisive in the field of education due to her methods for teaching reading. Her much awaited new curriculum was intended to respond to her critics with a more research-supported, phonics-based approach to literacy.
However, a fresh issue with the curriculum has emerged, one that is enmeshed in the controversy over state laws that limit how race, gender, and other identities are taught.
After internal discussion over the fundamental question: Should curricula take into account these conservative laws?, her publisher, Heinemann, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, has chosen to halt publication of the “Units of Study” curriculum for kindergarten through second grade.
Up to 25% of the nation’s elementary schools may be impacted by the decision to stop publishing. It also demonstrates the competing pressures educational publishers face, including right-wing legislation that restricts the curriculum and demand from progressive educators to provide materials that deal more directly with race, gender, and other kinds of identity.
The new materials may be in violation of curriculum regulations currently in place in more than 15 states, including Florida and Texas, according to focus groups with educators in conservative areas, which raised concerns for Heinemann and Professor Calkins.
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According to several sources who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the subject, examples of the content that raised concerns included a recommendation to teachers not to form boys’ and girls’ groups during class activities and a reference, also in teacher materials, for educators to remain mindful of children’s racial backgrounds and identities. BIPOC, an acronym for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, was also mentioned. strict regulations?
Sonja Cherry-Paul, a co-founder of the Institute for Racial Equity in Literacy, is one of the writers who have broken ties with Heinemann. She created “Stamped (for Kids)” for another publisher from the popular young-adult book “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.
“Due to irreconcilable differences regarding the work of equity, inclusion and antiracism, effective immediately, we are ending our professional development and publishing relationships with Heinemann.” Dr. Cherry-Paul and Tricia Ebarvia stated in a statement posted on Twitter on Monday.
Dr. Cherry-Paul served as the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s director of diversity and equity before joining Professor Calkins’ team at Columbia. Since Dr. Cherry-Paul left that position in May, no one has taken over.
Vicki Boyd, who was the publisher’s general manager at the time, referred to the editing procedure as “inherently defective, at best, and, at worst, a breach of Heinemann’s deeply ingrained values” in a July 7 email that The New York Times was able to get.
“We have been meeting with members of the author community one on one over the last week to listen to their issues and concerns,” she stated in reference to the protest among Heinemann authors.
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Heinemann has announced that Ms. Boyd is leaving the company.
The new Calkins curriculum will be published later this year, according to a written statement from Heinemann, which also noted that “under new leadership, a comprehensive editorial review of the upcoming edition of ‘Units of Study’ is being conducted, in strict adherence to H.M.H.’s content, equity, inclusion and diversity guidelines.”