Reading & Literacy

They’re Singing Reading First’s Praises in Nashville

July 28, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

There’s no shortage of cheerleaders among the nearly 6,000 attendees at the National Reading First Conference here in Music City. Calling it the “5th annual celebration of the success of Reading First,” Joe Conaty, who directs the program for the U.S. Department of Ed, kicked off the national conference today with a plenary session touting the benefits of the federal reading program, and lamenting its potential demise if Congress proceeds with plans to zero it out in the next budget.

Deputy Secretary Ray Simon was up next, shaking his head at the looming cuts, saying Reading First “has given us a practical road map to success.” The move to cut the program, which has pumped more than $6 billion into efforts to improve reading instruction since 2002, “just doesn’t make sense. ... We need more Reading First, not less.”

He then introduced first lady Laura Bush, who in her brief comments shared student achievement data from several model Reading First schools.

“The solution for our nation’s struggling students is not less time and less resources” devoted to reading instruction, she said. “Congress must restore the $1 billion appropriation for Reading First.”

There isn’t too much optimism that that will happen in the fiscal 2009 budget. So many participants are trying to figure out how to sustain the program in their own schools and districts without the federal grant money.

More than 150 school leaders sat in on a workshop led by representatives of the Reading First technical-assistance centers to help them do just that. Stan Paine and Sarah Sayko had their close attention as they described how participants could craft a plan for sustaining the program. The session will be repeated each of the next two days.

When asked for a show of hands, everyone in the room agreed that Reading First had changed their district’s approach to reading instruction. All again said they are worried about what the loss of funding will do to those efforts.

“It’s not just about the money,” Paine said. “We believe you can find ways to sustain the essential principles of Reading First.”

Michael Johnson, an elementary school principal in Logan, W.Va., said his staff is working to do just that.

“This really works,” he said. “We now have a way of identifying students’ weaknesses and we have a number of interventions to address those weaknesses. We’re teaching all students to read.”

There’s been confusing, incomplete, and even conflicting data on the effectiveness of the program—and very little of it is based on rigorous studies—but don’t tell that to the enthusiastic group packing the sessions at the Reading First conference. The teachers and administrators have their own data and anecdotes to explain how the program has benefited their schools or districts. And many say they will remain committed to the program even without the money, and even work to spread the model to other schools.

We still need some definitive research on the impact the program is having on student achievement, especially if proponents want to convince lawmakers that the program has been worth the hefty investment. The participants at the conference, however, don’t have time to wait, and most already seem convinced it is worth continuing.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Your Questions on the Science of Reading, Answered
Dive into the Science of Reading with K-12 leaders. Discover strategies, policy insights, and more in our webinar.
Content provided by Otus
Mathematics Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Breaking the Cycle: How Districts are Turning around Dismal Math Scores
Math myth: Students just aren't good at it? Join us & learn how districts are boosting math scores.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How To Tackle The Biggest Hurdles To Effective Tutoring
Learn how districts overcome the three biggest challenges to implementing high-impact tutoring with fidelity: time, talent, and funding.
Content provided by Saga Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy High Schools Kids Barely Read. Could Audiobooks Reverse That Trend?
Audiobooks, long considered by some educators as "cheating," are finding a place in the high school curriculum.
4 min read
Vector illustration concept of young person listening to an audiobook.
iStock/Getty
Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on How Reading and Writing Fuel Each Other
This Spotlight will help you learn the benefits of tutoring on reading skills; identify how to build students’ reading stamina; and more.


Reading & Literacy What It Takes for Kids to Get Lost in a Good Story, and Why It Matters
A team of researchers delves into what gets students to read in a state of complete absorption.
4 min read
An elementary student reads on his own in class.
An elementary student reads on his own in class.
Allison Shelley/EDUimages
Reading & Literacy What's Missing From States' Reading Laws? The Role of Content Knowledge
Content is a critical part of reading—and should be name-checked by lawmakers, reading researchers say.
3 min read
Group of 7 diverse elementary children sitting in library, reading books, side view of kids on red couches with books.
The Image Bank/Getty