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Reid Lyon Doth Protest Too Much

NOTE: Response to: School for Profit, Fort Worth Weekly front page story. This letter does not yet appear on the website of the paper.

January 27, 2006 by Reid Lyon

To the [Fort Worth Weekly]editor,

I was very disappointed by the untruths and reporting of incorrect and destructive rumors as facts that appeared in your recent article, 'School for Profit." By reporting unproven gossip and innuendo as fact, without attributing any of it to any reputable source, you have done a grave disservice to the Fort Worth School District, Voyager, and the millions of students across the nation who have improved their reading skills and their potential for success because of evidence-based reading instruction.

I recently stepped down as chief of the child development and behavior branch at NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development after 14 years in that position. Prior to coming to NIH and during my tenure there, I dedicated much of my professional career to helping educators better understand scientifically based reading research and its application in the classroom. My focus has been entirely directed at research quality and replicability. As a government official, I NEVER endorsed any commercial reading product, period. I NEVER endorsed Voyager. My role was simply to report the results of our NIH supported reading studies. I NEVER spoke with New York City Public Schools about Voyager nor did I have anything to do with the district's selection of a reading program.

To report otherwise is a lie, and accuses me of violating federal law. I am particularly dismayed that the Fort Worth Weekly would report such egregious and unsubstantiated accusations about me. Moreover, I was never contacted by your reporter so I had no opportunity whatsoever to respond to the falsehoods in the article. Even if your reporter was set on publishing erroneous information to damage my reputation, I would think that she would have the professional ethics to ask me about her opinions of my work.

Over the years, I have been asked by school districts and state officials about different reading programs. My answer has always been the same. To be approved for Reading First funding, a program must be comprehensive in its approach and have sufficient scientific support for the principles on which the program was built. It is that simple. We know what is most effective in teaching our children to read. Reading First was designed to ensure that effective, evidence-based instruction is being used in our classrooms.

As a researcher, I have dedicated my professional career to identifying the most effective ways to teach children to read. As a parent, I want to see each and every child succeed in school and experience the joys of reading. And as an American, I want to ensure that my tax dollars are being spent on what we know works and not on unproven philosophies or ineffective methods.

Fort Worth ISD, like hundreds of other districts throughout the nation, has made a commitment to implementing scientifically based reading research into its classrooms. Doing so is the only way to improve student performance. Your paper should focus on what we can do as a community to provide all of our schools and all of our students with proven, effective instruction that will prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of the 21 st century.

'School for Profit" was nothing more than mud-slinging and the reporting of lies and gossip as truth. Is that really a lesson we want to be teaching our children?

Reid Lyon
Dallas , TX

— Reid Lyon


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