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NCLB Outrages

Life after Death for Reading First

By Ken Goodman

The Senate appropriations committee has joined the House of Representatives in cutting off funds in the 2009 budget for Reading First. That followed a series of damning reports by the Inspector General showing conflicts of interest in the administration of Reading First that resulted in the 6 billion dollars spent over the last six years enriching avaricious authors and their high handed publishers. The coup de gras came with the report of the federal Institute for Educational Science study that showed no improvement in comprehension for the kids who had the one-size-fits-all reading first program.

Congress has effectively washed its hands of the whole mess. Rep.George Miller said it appeared to be âcooked from the very beginning" and "seemed close to a criminal enterprise.â

But where does that leave states and school districts that are still contracted under a now completely unfunded mandate? No doubt Sec. Spelling will argue they are still bound to keep to the mandates whether funded or not. And the authors and publishers whose blatant greed precipitated the wrath of Congress continue to collect on their misdeeds. They donât care who has to pay them. Though their conflicts have been referred to the Justice Department the Bush administration has shown no sign that actions will follow.

Whether charges follow or not, crimes were committed. The contracts the states signed under Reading First and NCLB were illegally negotiated under pressures which violated the laws themselves. The states and the school districts that got RF funds have every right to stop using and stop paying for the illegally mandated tests and texts.

Now the truth can be acknowledged:. Reading First was an Emperor with No Clothes. The synthetic direct instruction phonics programs that masqueraded as Scientifically Based Reading Research have failed. As Michael Grunwald (2006), said in the Washington Post, "An accumulating mound of evidence from reports, interviews, and program documents suggests that Reading First has had little to do with science or rigor. Instead, the billions have gone to what is effectively a pilot project for untested programs with friends in high places." (October 1, 2006; Page B01)

None of the mandated programs and tests could have survived review by any state or local review committee if they hadnât been endowed by their creators with SBRR and thus avoided such review.

Certainly, DIBELS, âthe worst thing to happen to reading since flash cardsâ (Pearson, 2007) could never have achieved its reign of terror over millions of 5 to 8 year olds if it had had to pass professional review.

Now the teachers who were cowed into silence can loudly say âwe knew RF couldnât workâ
Unless state and Lea officials declare that their RF and NCLB contracts are null and void, the profiteers will go on collecting for their misdeeds and kids and teachers will continue to suffer.

Then it will be up to a new Congress and a new President to undo the harm that continues to be done.

— Ken Goodman
The Pulse: Education's Place for Debate


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