Editor’s Note as of Sept. 8: The following sentence has been removed from this article, originally posted on Friday, September 1, 2023: “The entity TCRWP, founded in 1981, will be dissolved as part of this shift.” This was not a legal definition of dissolve. While the TCRWP organization as we have come to know it will change, as stated originally, the work of TCRWP and its staff will transition to an Advancing Literacy unit this academic year. All existing school partnerships are unaffected and will continue seamlessly.
Literacy affects every part of a student’s life and life chances. Communities with high levels of literacy experience less poverty, are healthier, and have greater access to their civil rights and to full participation in our democracy.
Teachers College has a deep bench of scholars studying literacy from multiple angles using different approaches (curriculum and teaching, special education, inclusion, human development, neuroscience). And throughout the College’s academic programs and research agenda, there is an unwavering commitment to inclusion — among students, faculty and staff on campus and in our scholarship. TC faculty, students and staff are national leaders in preparing teachers to support diverse classrooms and are engaged in integrative research, both translational and basic, that is contextualized with respect to marginalized communities across race, culture, ethnicity, language and neurodiversity.
This diversity of approaches, and TC’s commitment to supporting teachers and schools in different ways (e.g. research, academic programs, professional learning communities and development) has served the College well, but moving forward, TC wants to foster more conversations and collaboration among different evidence-based approaches to literacy, and ensure our programs are aligned with the needs of teachers and school districts looking to partner.
To support this objective, the work of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) and its staff will transition to an Advancing Literacy unit within TC’s Continuing Professional Studies (CPS) division for the 2023-2024 year, a return to its original professional development roots. TC is working to align the work of TC staff with the needs of school districts and changes in reading curriculum locally and nationwide.
For many years, TCRWP’s founding director Lucy Calkins led efforts to support teachers as they develop students as readers and writers. Dr. Calkins has stepped down as Director of the Reading and Writing Project. She is Robinson Professor in Children's Literature at Teachers College, a tenured faculty member in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching, on sabbatical during the 2023-2024 academic year.
“Many teachers credit TCRWP for creating communities of practice where teachers gain valuable resources and support,” says KerryAnn O’Meara, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost and Dean of the College. “TC is grateful to Dr. Calkins for her service.”
Dr. Calkins shares her expertise as a consultant through her own LLC. Teachers College is not involved in the operations or provision of services provided by Dr. Calkins in her LLC.
As TCRWP transitions to work as part of the College’s Continuing Professional Studies division during the 2023-2024 academic year, Mary Ehrenworth, Beth Neville and Emily Butler Smith — longtime members of the TCRWP staff — will provide leadership.
The new Advancing Literacy unit will offer a variety of curricular support. Across the U.S., some school districts use the Units of Study curriculum and need professional development to support their teachers. Other school districts around the country use different curricula and are looking for professional development. TC staff are poised and ready to support teachers and school districts using different curricula and approaches. Advancing Literacy staff will be enhanced by their placement in CPS, which offers many dynamic noncredit courses and other professional development opportunities annually for thousands of teachers in NYC and beyond — including in areas such as inclusion, education leadership, digital learning and literacy.
As the College looks towards the future, Provost O’Meara highlighted three reasons she is excited about the ways in which Teachers College can advance literacy and reading instruction moving forward.
First, the College can learn and support students and teachers by listening to its partners. TC has many well-established relationships with NYC school-district personnel, teachers and leaders through decades of work together across professional development programs — not only in reading but in teaching about inclusive classrooms, coaching for leaders and early career teachers, arts education, classroom technology, climate change, nutrition and school psychology, among many others.
“As we move forward to align our professional development programs with the greatest needs of our school partners, teachers and community organizations, we will be building from these relationships, and listening to our teachers, and school districts. TCRWP created some powerful communities of practice and those communities of teachers can still find connection in the work of the broadened Advancing Literacy unit,” says Provost O’Meara.
Second, TC will ensure that its professional development programs are informed by the latest research and evidence and that the College continually finds new ways to translate faculty scholarship into timely assessments, interventions, and research-based practices. Provost O’Meara notes several examples of this through certificate programs, coaching and symposiums — and will be able to report more on that soon.
Third, the national conversation about literacy must include the experiences of students who are multilingual, are enrolled in special education programs and live in high-poverty and marginalized communities. “TC’s expertise in centering inclusion and equity is unmatched and distinct. Moving forward, we need to integrate these three strengths to make a greater impact in literacy development, and we look forward to sharing our next steps to do so soon.”
More information about the Advancing Literacy Network will be forthcoming.