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[Susan notes: As usual, Gerald Bracey presents facts. Let's watch them ignore the facts and continue with the corporate agenda.]

Submitted to Letter to Congressmen but not published

To the editor

The Honorable George Miller

The Honorable Edward Kennedy


In her memorandum of August 29, 2006 to Inspector

General Jack Higgins, Secretary of Education Margaret

Spellings makes the following claim:

The program (Reading First) is producing positive

results for America’s students and examples of its

success are evident across the nation. The long-term

trend data from the National Assessment of Educational

Progress (NAEP) indicate that over the last five

years, more reading progress has been made among

nine-year-olds than in the previous 28 years

combined…I believe that this is due in part to the

contributions of Reading First and other programs

under the No Child Left Behind Act.

That NCLB has contributed to the “progress” is highly


That Reading First has made any contribution at all is

physically impossible.


The five year period the Secretary refers to is from

1999 to 2004. The gain in question is 7 points. No

NAEP trend data were gathered in the intervening

years. For the year 1999-2000 and 2000-2001, NCLB did

not even exist. It is possible that all of the gain

occurred before George W. Bush became president.

Similarly, NCLB would have existed as law only for a

few months of the 2001-2002 school year.

Given the confusion surrounding the implementation of

NCLB in 2002-2003, it is not credible that it caused

any gains in that year. That leaves only 7 months of

2003-2004 for NCLB to work its wonders before the NAEP

assessment in Spring, 2004. I don’t think so.


The Inspector General’s report on Reading First

indicates that Maryland’s final proposal did not

arrive until November, 2003. A document from the

Southern Regional Education Board states that by March

1, 2003, only half of the state proposals had been

approved. At the time of the NAEP assessment in 2004,

most children eligible for Reading First were not

receiving Reading First instruction.

More importantly, Reading First essays to ensure that

children are reading well by grade 3. The 2004 NAEP

assessment tested 9-year-olds, most of whom are

fourth-graders. A student would have to have been in

third grade and receiving Reading First instruction by

the year 2002-2003 to have been old enough to take

part in the 2004 NAEP assessment. This would be a

tiny number, perhaps even zero.

The 28-year period the Secretary refers to is from

NAEP’s first trend collection in 1971 to 1999. The

gain was 4 points compared to the seven points from

1999 to 2004. Had she started in, say, 1980, her

statement would not be true.

Even if NAEP scores rise at some point in the future,

it will be hard to attribute any of the increase to

Reading First. In 2004, the total NAEP trend sample

of 9-year-olds was 7500. I believe that would mean

that the number of Reading First “graduates” in any

NAEP sample would be tiny. NAEP would have to

undertake a special study of Reading First

participants for any effect to be seen or not.

There are significant weaknesses in the University of

Michigan study cited by the Secretary. If the

Michigan researchers were held to the same standard to

which Reading First applicants were held, the study

would not be admissible as evidence.


Gerald W. Bracey

Alexandria, VA

Gerald W. Bracey

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