While an “impact study” by the federal government has raised questions about the success of Reading First nationally, an evaluation in California credits the program with raising student achievement in that state significantly. Reading First, which has been the flagship reading program of the No Child Left Behind Act, is a K-3 program, but in California, even 5th graders in Reading First schools are scoring significantly higher on reading tests than those not in Reading First schools. The study by Educational Data Systems also shows that students in schools that implemented the program to a high degree had much higher achievement than students in schools that didn’t implement the program in a comprehensive way.
The pattern of higher achievement for students at Reading First schools in California even applied to English-language learners.
The national impact study by the Institute of Education Sciences showed that Reading First had helped students to learn to recognize letters, sounds, and words, but hadn’t made an impact on reading comprehension among 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders in Reading First schools.
The House of Representatives approved a bill for the current fiscal year this week that eliminated funding for Reading First.
But at least one Republican in the House, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon is opposed to nixing the program, and some observers are saying that some tenets of the program should be carried on even though the program is dead. Here’s an excerpt from Eduflack:
Eduflack has come to grips with the fact that Reading First is dead. The program itself was long plagued with significant implementation problems and a poor public perception. But its core tenets remain both true and essential. ... RF is dead, absolutely. But that doesn't mean we give up on teaching our kids to read or offering the research-proven approaches and interventions that are necessary to raising student literacy levels and getting all students reading at grade level.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.