Reading & Literacy

Audit Faults Wisconsin’s ‘Reading First’ Grant Process

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — October 30, 2006 2 min read

Wisconsin education officials failed to ensure that schools and districts that received federal Reading First grants adhered to the program’s strict guidelines, a failing that, if not rectified, could cost the state nearly $6 million of its $45 million allocation, a federal report concludes.

The audit by the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general, dated Oct. 20, found that nine of the state’s 26 grant recipients had not received the required approval of a review panel and may not have met all the requirements for receiving the money.

The “Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s Reading First Program” is posted by the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general.

State officials acknowledged that some of the local grant proposals were stronger than others, and they agreed with the inspector general that the state needs to monitor more closely the program’s implementation and give additional guidance to Reading First schools and districts.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “supports the Reading First program and will do whatever it takes to guarantee successful implementation of all its programs,” Julie Enloe, Wisconsin’s Reading First coordinator, wrote in her response to the inspector general.

The report is the second of six reviews of the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program being conducted by the inspector general. The first, released in September, was a scathing critique of the federal Education Department’s management of the program following an examination of program documents, e-mail correspondence between federal employees and consultants, and interviews. (“Scathing Report Casts Cloud Over ‘Reading First’,” Oct. 4, 2006.)

‘Is This All There Is?’

The new report is limited to Wisconsin’s performance in administering the grants. Little detail about the state’s difficulties in getting approval for its grant during the program’s rollout in 2002 and 2003 is given.

Some Wisconsin educators had complained, for example, that consultants and reviewers rejected the specific reading programs the state had proposed, and pressured them to adopt other programs or assessments.

There is also no explanation of the decision by officials in the Madison school district to give back its $2 million grant shortly after it was approved. Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater decided to drop out of the program after federal consultants told district officials they would have to abandon their existing literacy initiative and adopt a commercially published core reading program, he wrote in a detailed memo to the school board. (“States Report Reading First Yielding Gains,” June 8, 2005.)

“Is this all there is?” Kathy Champeau, who heads a task force on the federal No Child Left Behind Act for the Wisconsin State Reading Association and is a member of the state’s Reading First leadership team, said of the inspector general’s audit.

“I was shocked at the limited scope of the report,” she said, “and that it didn’t address … the coercion the state faced to use certain published programs.”

Those issues, however, were not within the scope of the audit, which was to determine whether the state education department followed the requirements of the Reading First program in issuing the grants to local education agencies, the report says. Other audits may include more detail on the Wisconsin program.

Ms. Champeau contended that the Wisconsin department went to great lengths to monitor the grants and ensure that the participating reading programs were of high quality.

A version of this article appeared in the November 01, 2006 edition of Education Week as Audit Faults Wisconsin’s ‘Reading First’ Grant Process

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.
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 Well-Being Webinar
The Social-Emotional Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on American Schoolchildren
Hear new findings from an analysis of our 300 million student survey responses along with district leaders on new trends in student SEL.
Content provided by Panorama

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 Opinion Q&A Collections: Writing Instruction
Ten years of advice from experienced teachers about writing instruction.
8 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Reading & Literacy Opinion Q&A Collections: Reading Instruction
Learn from nearly 100 teachers sharing their advice on various aspects of reading instruction.
9 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on the Science of Reading 2021
In this Spotlight, review where the learning gaps are for those learning to read, determine if teachers are properly prepared and more.
Reading & Literacy What the Research Says Reading on Screen vs. Print: New Analysis Thickens the Plot on Promoting Comprehension
Electronic books could boost young children's comprehension more than print, but few enhance, rather than distract, new study finds
4 min read
Image of someone holding a tablet and a book.
Carolina Jaramillo/iStock/Getty