To the Editor:
As one who has had the opportunity to work with states, school districts, and schools in preparing Reading First applications, it is with great interest that I read the U.S. Department of Education inspector general’s initial report on the federal program, and I look with anticipation to future reports (“Scathing Report Casts Cloud Over ‘Reading First’,” Oct. 4, 2006). The findings come as no surprise.
To those who tried to resist the coercion and intimidation of Christopher J. Doherty and the Reading First gestapo, I offer my sympathy. Unfortunately, billions of dollars are long gone, to the bottom lines of those companies with highly structured basal programs that were deemed “effective.” It was obvious and well known even in 2002 that some inadequate research was deemed “good,” while other inadequate research was deemed “bad.” No program had then, or has today, research that proves its effectiveness (using the Education Department’s definition of reliable research).
Some actions can be taken at this point. First, ensure that decisionmakers in your state, district, and school are aware of the inspector general’s reports. Second, follow those responsible for this abuse of power. Know where they have taken their biases and act accordingly. Third, and perhaps most important, hold the researchers of Reading First’s effectiveness to the same standards supposedly used by the Reading First panel.
Some questions to ask: What were the sizes of the experimental and control groups? How were the two groups randomized? What was the design that isolated the effect of the materials used? In what peer-reviewed journal is the study published? Where has it been replicated?
Don’t let inadequate research continue the myth that teachers of early literacy must have a “scripted” program to teach young children to read.
A version of this article appeared in the November 08, 2006 edition of Education Week as What to Do in Light of The Reading First Report