To the Editor:
It seems that in Washington there are scandals, and then there are scandals.
In February, The Washington Post ran a series of articles on the neglect and mistreatment of wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Generals have been fired and heads have rolled. And that’s as it should be.
We’ve now had a series of reports from the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general on the implementation of the multibillion-dollar Reading First program, part of the No Child Left Behind Act. Not one congressional hearing has yet been held. Despite the recommendations of the inspector general’s reports, only one scapegoat has been permitted to resign. No investigations of violations of the law have been initiated by the attorney general. No grand juries have been convened. And the national press and media have virtually ignored the whole scandal.
When Education Week went through the mountain of e-mails released by the Education Department under the Freedom of Information Act (“E-Mails Reveal Federal Reach Over Reading?” Feb. 21, 2007), it found numerous messages that seem to involve conspiracies by Education Department and Nation Institute of Child Health and Human Development functionaries and their paid consultants to violate and misrepresent the law. And yet those very violations were excused by ranking authorities as being necessary to force teachers and administrators to use reading programs and tests labeled “scientific” by their own authors, with no supporting evidence for the particular programs and tests.
We need to insist that those responsible for mistreating our returning servicemen and -women be punished. And we must also insist that those abusing the children of these returning servicepeople—and the rest of the children in American schools—also be punished.
We need to fully air the impact of Reading First, and NCLB as a whole, before the No Child Left Behind Act is reauthorized for another, even more disastrous five years. Thanks to Education Week for its full reporting of the Reading First scandals.
Kenneth S. Goodman
Department of Language,
Reading, and Culture
College of Education
University of Arizona
A version of this article appeared in the March 21, 2007 edition of Education Week as In Reading, a Scandal Without Consequences