Reading & Literacy

Education Department Study Finds Reading First Schools Spend More Time on the Subject

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — July 25, 2006 | Corrected: February 22, 2019 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Corrected: This story should have said Alan E. Farstrup is executive director of the International Reading Association.

Includes updates and/or revisions.

Schools participating in the federal Reading First program dedicate more time to reading instruction and professional development and are more likely to use assessment data to inform teaching than Title I schools that are not in the grant program, concludes a study released yesterday on the $1 billion-a-year initiative.

“In K-3 classrooms, the reading programs implemented by teachers in Reading First and non-RF Title I schools appear to be different in a variety of ways, including instructional time, resources, instructional planning and collaboration, use of assessments, and focus on the [essential] dimensions of reading instruction,” the interim report of the Reading First Implementation Evaluation states. “These findings provide some initial evidence to suggest that Reading First schools are carrying out the objectives of the Reading First legislation.”

The study was based on surveys of some 9,000 teachers, principals, and reading coaches in national representative samples of 1,100 Reading First schools and 541 Title I schools that are not in the program. All the schools in the study enroll large percentages of poor children. Researchers for the Cambridge, Mass.-based Abt Associates, which conducted the study under contract to the U.S. Department of Education, also relied on interviews and state descriptions of schools’ Reading First plans to review how the program is being implemented.

The two groups of schools were demographically similar, but the Reading First schools were, on average, larger and had larger proportions of struggling readers among their K-3 students.

Is It Working?

To this point, little information has been available about how the 4-year-old program is working, although observers say that Reading First schools and districts have reported anecdotal improvements in teachers’ knowledge and skills and students’ reading proficiency.

Some experts welcomed the study as positive news from a program that has been in the news more for its controversy than its role in improving instruction around the country.

“The Reading First schools, in contrast with other schools … have more time for reading instruction, more assessment, and more professional-development resources,” said Alan E. Farstrup, the executive director of the Newark, Del.-based International Reading Association. “It’s encouraging, and now we’re waiting for the hard performance data that will show how it’s working.”

The program has been mired by complaints that federal employees and consultants pressured states into using specific commercial reading programs, assessments, and consultants. The Education Department’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, have both launched probes into those allegations.

One of those complainants questioned this latest study’s reliance on survey data, and the lack of information to gauge student achievement in Reading First schools.

“Teachers knew what they were supposed to say on a survey, and they said it,” Robert E. Slavin, the president of the Success for All Foundation, wrote in an e-mail. Mr. Slavin has charged that Education Department officials infringed on the Baltimore-based foundation’s ability to compete for Reading First funds by discouraging participating schools from using the well-respected whole-school reform program.

Reading First has been viewed as among the most prescriptive federal programs for placing guidelines on states for using so-called “scientifically based” methods and materials. Mr. Slavin and other researchers, however, have questioned whether the tendency of participating schools to use commercial reading programs and assessments that have not been vetted through rigorous research trials meets the program’s requirements.

“What is astonishing is that [nearly] five years and $5 billion into this program, we know nothing about outcomes,” Mr. Slavin added.

The final implementation report, due next year, will look at student achievement data at participating and nonparticipating schools through the 2006-07 school year.

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 Q&A Want to Improve Reading Proficiency? Talk to Kids More
Education researcher Sonia Cabell explains how effective classroom conversations can boost reading proficiency.
4 min read
A 1st grade teacher speaks with a student about an assignment at Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., on April 4, 2017.
A 1st grade teacher speaks with a student about an assignment at Capital City Public Charter School in the District of Columbia in 2017.
Allison Shelley/All4Ed
Reading & Literacy Opinion Reading Fluency: The Neglected Key to Reading Success
A reading researcher asks whether dismal reading results could stem from the fact that decoding doesn't automatically lead to comprehension.
Timothy Rasinski
5 min read
Illustration of young boy reading and repeat icon.
DigitalVision Vectors / Getty
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.