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[Susan notes: Kudos to Stephen Krashen for once again looking beyond the spin. Krashen read the actual report and finds puff pieces published by the International Reading Association are not based on fact.]

Published in Reading Today

To the editor

Two articles in Reading Today denounce the unethical

practices described in a recent report from the Office

of the Inspector General concerning wrong-doing in

awarding Reading First grants. Both maintain, however,

that Reading First has value. Both cite two studies,

âKeeping Watch on Reading First,â from the Center for

Educational Policy, and the Reading First

Implementation Evaluation, from the US Department of


Keeping Watch

âThe dilemma of Reading First, â (Reading Today, vol.

23, number 3) states that âKeeping Watch ⦠indicates

that most states and districts believe the program has

helped. For instance, 19 of the 35 states that

reported their reading programs had improved in the

past few years identified Reading First as a key


Thus, a little more than half (54%) gave credit to

Reading First for improvement. But Reading First has

been implemented in 50 states. Apparently, reading did

not improve in the other 15. The data could mean that

Reading First was thought to be helpful in only 19 out

of 50 states, less than 40%. Keeping Watchâs summary

statement reflects this: Some states ⦠reported that

Reading First ⦠improved student achievementâ (page


Reports at the district level are more enthusiastic:

â⦠84% of Reading First districts reported improved

reading achievement, and 97% of these districts

attributed the improvement to Reading First,â (p. 4).

Keeping Watch concludes that âthe majority of

districtsâ reported that Reading First helped (p. 4).

I could find no refeence for the 84% figure in Keeping

Watch. In fact, Keeping Watch does not indicate how

many of the districts surveyed used Reading First. All

we know is that they were all Title 1. Thus it is not

clear how many Reading First districts reported gains

and how many did not.

Finally, Keeping Watch provides no actual data on the

effectiveness of Reading First. It consists only of

the â⦠views of state and district officialsâ (p. 5).

One wonders why Keeping Watch didnât ask the real

experts, the teachers.

The Reading First Implementation Evaluation

âThe dilemma of Reading Firstâ notes that another

report, Reading First Implementation, âindicated that

that the program is having a positive impactâ (page

4). This report does not deal with student

achievement at all, but focuses only on implementation

and the relationship between Reading First and

Non-Reaching First Title I reading instruction (Exec.

Summary, page 2). It is thus inappropriate to cite it

as evidence for the success of Reading First.

Reading First Implementation Evaluation tells us that

Reading First schools reported spending 19 more

minutes per day on reading than non-RF title I schools

(p. 4). Since Reading First devotes more time to

reading, if Reading First is just as effective as what

the comparison group does, Reading First schools

should always show higher gains in reading, thanks to

the additional time. But it is not clear that this is

the case.

These are not âglowingâ reports as Timothy Shanahan

claims in his column on page 16 of the

December/January issue of Reading Today (âOf Babies

and Bathwaterâ), nor does either report suggest â that

Reading First has been a boon to children,â as

Shanahan stated. Justification of such an ambitious

program should be based on sterner stuff.

Stephen Krashen

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