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URGENT: Speak Up!

The House Committee on Government Reform is the principal investigative committee for the U.S. House of Representatives. At the direction of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the Special Investigations Division of the Committee's minority staff is continuing to investigate allegations that scientific integrity in federal agencies has been compromised by the Bush Administration's pursuit of a political or ideological agenda.

So far the Committee is concerned with scientific integrity in areas other than education. Let's give them an earful about No Child Left Behind.

Remember, it's scientific integrity they are investigating. All those Reading First grants claim to be based on science. You have to choose Open Court, Success for All, or maybe Harcourt because of a partisan view of science sent out from Washington D. C.

You can access the form for sending your views to the committee at the url below.

Pete Farruggio's message to the Committee gives a good overview. Educators need to follow this with stories of how federal "science" distorts reading in their schools.

I am a teacher with 18 years of classroom experience, a credentialed Reading Specialist, a Teacher Educator at UC Berkeley Extension, and an education researcher at the Graduate School of Ed at UC Berkeley.

I want to make you aware of the dangerous pseudo-science being promoted by the US Dept of Ed, especially in the area of reading pedagogy. The current exclusively approved model of research (being called "scientific research" by the administration philistines) is the experimental and quasi-experimental design, based on the famous aspirin studies in statistical/medical research. The federal agency, the NICHD, has sponsored hundreds of these studies with our tax dollars, although those of us with real expertise in reading pedagogy (in classrooms under real conditions) strongly question the legitimacy of a mental health agency intervening in the field of education, which a far removed from their realm of knowledge. The NICHD research director, Mr Reid Lyons, has no experience in the area of reading. The typical "scientific" study pre-tests a group of learning disabled children (not the typical students in any school), then gives them a "treatment" of special lessons in isolated phonetic-awareness skills (such as making up phonetically-predictable nonsense words), and finally post-tests them in exactly the limited skills they were taught. When they pass such a test, the intervention is declared successful, and it is implied (but never proven) that these children will become better readers.

Such studies are called "reductionist" in the Social Sciences because they reduce the definition of the desired outcome, in this case real reading of real books and literature, to a set of subskills that are NOT the outcome (reading).

The National Reading Panel (NRP) was assembled a few years ago, I believe by the NICHD, to do a definitive review of the extant research on reading pedagogy. Unfortunately, the NRP was mostly composed of known pro-phonics ideologues, and their meta-study of the reading research was predictably flawed and biased. Subsequent studies have been done by independent researchers which show how the NRP overcounted results from pro-phonics studies and rejected whole sets of research that did not match their ideology. Joanne Yatvin is a member of the NRP, and has published a dissenting report with some of these details.

The NRP issued a 500-page report of its findings, and even with its biases, this report still declared that scripted phonics programs, like Open Court Reading (McGraw Hill Publishing, owned by the McGraw family, longtime friends of the Bush family) do not work. However, a corporate educational publishing representative was allowed to write the report's executive summary, which is the only thing that most education policy officials read. This exec summary stated the exact OPPOSITE conclusion about scripted phonics programs (that they DO work), and this propaganda piece for Open Court has been widely touted by Reid Lyon and the US Dept of Ed for the past several years. They have been using this along with the strongarm tactics of the NCLB law (funding) to shove such garbage as Open Court down our throats. Several experts in reading research such as Elaine Garan, Richard Allington, and Margaret Moustafa, as well as Stephen Krashen, have written in detail about the flaws in the "scientific" research and the resultant policy dictates.

Harm is being done to our children, especially in low income schools, on a daily basis. I urge you to investigate this. --Pete Farruggio

— House Committee on Government Reform





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