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NCLB Outrages

Study of Reading Program Finds a Lack of Progress

Sent to the Washington Post, Nov. 19, 2008

A close look at the Reading First Impact Study ("Study of Reading
Program Finds a Lack of Progress," November 19) shows that Reading
First students actually did worse than students not in Reading First:
Their scores in reading comprehension were the same, but Reading First
children had an extra 18.5 minutes per day of reading instruction, the
equivalent of an extra day of instruction every week, or an extra
semester every two years. Reading First wasted six billion dollars,
and a huge amount of time.

Stephen Krashen

Jim Horn/Schools Matter Comment: Put your Dibels handheld in the garbage.
Even though the phonics fanatics, the parrot learning nutjobs, and the edu-profiteers have controlled reading instruction for the past eight years, their gravy train just left the tracks and is now in mid-flight toward the canyon floor below.

First released last June, the final version of a study by Spellings' own research shop shows incontrovertibly that the $6,000,000,000 spent on the direct instruction chain gangs designed for children of the poor benefited no one other than the hacks and hucksters who peddled the junk materials at the behest of the U. S. Department of Education. Now that we know that nothing was gained by this ideology-gone-wild approach to reading instruction, who will determine the harm that has been perpetrated against the most vulnerable children?

Do teachers and principals need any further permission to throw the Sopris West and SRA/McGraw Hill and DIBELS garbage into the garbage? Can we bring back the children's literature now, and can we encourage once again the growth of thinking and imagination in children? And can we prosecute the perpetrators?

By Maria Glod, Washington Post

Students in the $6 billion Reading First program have not made greater progress in understanding what they read than have peers outside the program, according to a congressionally mandated study.

The final version of the study, released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Education, found that students in schools that use Reading First, a program at the core of the No Child Left Behind law, scored no better on comprehension tests than students in similar schools that do not get the funding.

"It is a program that needs to be improved," said Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the department's research arm. "I don't think anyone should be celebrating that the federal government has spent $6 billion on a reading program that has had no impact on reading comprehension."

Whitehurst said the study showed some benefits. First-graders in Reading First classrooms were better able to decode, or recognize, printed words than students in schools without the program. Decoding is a key step in learning to read.

Reading First, though popular with educators, has been tarnished by allegations of conflicts of interest and mismanagement in recent years. Federal investigators have found that some people who helped oversee the program had financial ties to the publishers of Reading First materials.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has assured lawmakers that measures were taken to prevent future management troubles.

"Reading First helps our most vulnerable students learn the fundamental elements of reading while helping teachers improve instruction," Spellings said. "Instead of reversing the progress we have made by cutting funding, we must enhance Reading First and help more students benefit from research-based instruction."

The study, among the largest ever conducted by the department, tracked the progress of tens of thousands of students in 248 schools nationwide over three academic years. The students took a widely used reading comprehension test, and researchers observed classrooms.

Reading First, which requires schools to use instructional techniques supported by scientific research, provides grants for reading instruction. It focuses on five areas: awareness of individual sounds, phonics, vocabulary, reading fluency and comprehension.

— Maria Glod with comments by S. Krashen and J. Horn
Washington Post


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