Reading & Literacy

Fed Officials Defend ‘Rigorous’ Reading Study

November 21, 2008 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When the interim report of the Reading First Impact Study came out in May, there was an uproar from fans of the federal program who said the methodology was seriously flawed. As I reported here, they cited the likely “contamination” of the comparison schools, meaning that even though they didn’t receive the grant money they were implementing many of the same policies and practices as participating schools. Given that many of the RF and non-RF schools were potentially benefiting from the same professional development, instructional materials, and practices, the critics argued, it would be surprising if the evaluation found much of a difference in achievement among the students.

With the release of the final impact study this week, the same argument is being made to temper the disappointing findings. But during the media briefing held Tuesday to explain all the findings to reporters, IES director Russ Whitehurst, and project director Beth Gamse, made a point of stressing the quality of the study.

“The study fulfills the legistlative mandate for a rigorous, scientifically valid and quantitative evaluation of Reading First,” Gamse said. The “quite large” sample of more than 30,000 students, “makes this one of the largest and also one of the most methodologically rigorous studies that this department has ever undertaken.”

Whitehurst said that contamination is a non-issue, given that the classroom observations and surveys show that reading instruction in the classrooms in RF schools is significantly different than in the comparison schools.

Even without this complication, however, neither group turned in a particularly stellar performance. There was no significant improvement in the scale scores, or in the percentage of students meeting proficiency, in 2nd or 3rd grades between 2005 and 2007, for either the RF or non-RF schools.

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


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

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 Morphology Instruction: 5 Resources for Educators
Morphology instruction can help students break down complex words into meaningful parts—and make parsing them less intimidating.
3 min read
Open book on a table in front of a bookshelf filled with books. Rays of light and letters fly out of the open book.
Reading & Literacy What Is Morphology? Should Teachers Include It in Reading Instruction?
Teaching about word parts—such as prefixes, suffixes, and roots—may help students develop their academic vocabularies.
8 min read
A young girl peeks over the books on a library shelf
Reading & Literacy U.S. Parents Think Reading Instruction Is Going OK—Until They See National Test Results
Most parents also seem to favor phonics as an approach to word-reading, a new survey finds.
5 min read
Photo of mother working with young son on his reading.
E+ / Getty
Reading & Literacy Here's What Students Miss Out on When Their Schools Lack Librarians
Some administrators think school librarians are obsolete, but these schools prove otherwise.
6 min read
A quiet, secluded dark library with bookcases on either side and a bright light coming in through a window straight ahead with an empty chair near the window.