[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
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
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
Gerald W. Bracey