After a decade of working with the Kansas education department and schools throughout the state, Connie Briggs was taken aback when she received word that she was no longer needed to work with one of the state’s Reading First schools.
Even more troubling, Ms. Briggs said, was that her tenure on the state’s advisory committee for the federal reading program had also been terminated, and that state officials told her they could not work with her on a federal grant proposal for special education, despite previous arrangements to do so.
For Ms. Briggs, who is also the president of the Reading Recovery Council of North America, those decisions seemed like retaliation for her role in a complaint the council filed in August against federal officials in charge of the Reading First program. The complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general accused the officials of “systematically undermining” Reading Recovery, a popular one-on-one tutoring system, and ignoring research showing its effectiveness in helping struggling readers.
“This series of events that have occurred since [the council] sent the letter to the inspector general is just a little bit more than coincidental,” the Emporia State University professor contended in a recent interview. “I never thought about [the federal complaint] harming my work within the state, although I knew we had been warned that there could be retributions.”
Kansas officials, however, say the decision was not about Ms. Briggs. “The decision was to take the program in a different direction, and her services no longer fit in with that direction,” said Alexa Posny, the state’s deputy commissioner for learning services.
Both the Columbus, Ohio-based Reading Recovery Council and the Baltimore-based Success for All Foundation have filed formal complaints with the inspector general, charging federal officials involved with the $1 billion-a-year program with favoritism. But few others have complained, despite privately expressing similar concerns, for fear of losing out on Reading First money and other federal grant programs. (“Group Seeks Federal Probe of Reading First,” Aug. 5, 2005.)
Ms. Briggs said she asked Kansas officials for an explanation and was told only that she had served the state very well in her consulting role and that her services were no longer needed.
A version of this article appeared in the October 05, 2005 edition of Education Week