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Kindergartner Promotes Reading Program in Film

Ohanian Comment: A series promoting a reading program is lauded by the Arizona Department of Education and Arizona State University employee. Note how they make it sound as though winners in a competition get to buy Voyager. Note how it's called Reading First Voyager.

Founded in 1994 by Dallas entrepreneur Randy Best and Admiral Thomas B. Hayward (Ret.), Voyager is became part of ProQuest Information and Learning in 2004.

Take a look at Voyager's Advisory Team .

And here's what Whitehouse for Sale" has to say about Voyager.

After making a fortune selling cheerleading equipment to schools, Randy Best founded Voyager Expanded Learning in 1994 to provide for-profit, after-school programs to latchkey kids. Making use of existing public school facilities, Voyager furnishes extra equipment and hires school staff after hours. Voyager programs have been hampered by teacher exhaustion and the criticism that its curriculum is thin. The company also is frequently accused of using undue influence to land contracts. The Dallas Observer, for example, reported that Voyager hired the school superintendents of Dallas and Richardson, Texas, after their districts awarded major contracts to Voyager. Then-Governor George Bush received $45,400 from Best and other Voyager sources around the time that he endorsed spending $25 million in state funds on after-school programs. Georgia state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko went behind the backs of her state Board of Education to award a $1.1 million grant to Richmond County for a reading program in 2001. A month after the county awarded that contract to Voyager, top company executives contributed $56,750 to Schrenko’s failed gubernatorial bid. Best and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld previously sat on the board of defense electronics company Westmark Systems.

Asalea Hernandez spent time before the cameras.

The Roosevelt Elementary School District kindergartner played herself in an Arizona Department of Education public-service film short about reading.

"I acted smart," Asalea said. "I sang songs, I danced and I read, and I said my words loud and correct."

The education department filmed Asalea's part in the 10-minute clip at her campus, Southwest Elementary School. In it, she touts the 2-year-old Reading First Voyager program.

The film will be shown at a state conference in June to promote the program that requires students to read daily 90 minutes without interruption.

"It's Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne's vision of getting children to read by third grade," said Donna Perrigo, education program specialist/school effectiveness director for the Education Department.

The short film will show a variety of learning techniques such as phonics, comprehension and fluency.

Southwest School is one of 26 campuses across Arizona to compete and be awarded a grant to purchase a literacy program called Reading First Voyager that helps students to read. A distinct improvement in reading by Southwest students caught the Education Department's attention, and it selected the campus for filming.

"I'm very proud of my site (campus)," said Susan Bejarano, Southwest principal. "They (department officials) approached me in January (about the film). It's an honor. They chose our site because of our reading scores under the Reading First Voyager program."

Working behind the camera was Chris LaMont, a video director from Arizona State University's College of Education. The six-member crew is traveling across the state to film learning at other schools including those in Yuma and Tucson.

"ASU is very proud to be involved with this excellent program that showcases the hard-working teachers of Arizona and their gifted students of our public schools," LaMont said.

Asalea, 6, said she likes to learn phonics by using a bingo game connected to Voyager. She picks a word, and if she pronounces the word correctly, she gets a spin and is able to move a toy bear forward.

She loses a chance to spin if she incorrectly pronounces the word.

"I like school," Asalea said.

— Betty Reid
Arizona Republic


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