Inadequate literacy coverage in New York City


In the third installment of our series on literacy coverage, one of the parents featured in “Sold a Story” describes a dispiriting media response to problems at his daughter’s New York City school that continues to this day.

By Alexander Russo

Even before the pandemic, New York City parent Lee Gaul had sensed something seemed off about his daughter Zoe’s reading. “She would use a word that was completely wrong even if it conveyed the same idea,” he told me in a recent interview.

Then, like many other parents, he saw what was being taught in Zoe’s classroom during remote learning.

Looking around for answers to what was going on, Gaul eventually came across Emily Hanford’s documentary “At a Loss for Words” and found out that his daughter’s school was— like many other NYC DOE schools—using the Lucy Calkins (TCRWP) “balanced literacy” approach to teaching reading.

There was even a picture of Calkins schmoozing with the administrative staff in the familiar halls of his daughter’s school.

Trying to get some media attention to address the problems he was seeing, Gaul tried contacting several major local news outlets to tell them about the situation.

But no reporters ever got back to him with substantive interest until he was contacted by APM Reports’ Hanford.