Reading & Literacy Opinion

Scientifically based?

By Diane Ravitch — March 08, 2007 1 min read
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Dear Deborah,

So much is happening and I am afraid that I jumped ahead and wrote a blog entry on the upheavals in NYC before I saw your post about teaching reading.

Here is the bottom line on the federal Reading First program.

No one in the federal government, not the Department of Education, not the Congress, tells teachers how to teach reading. Any teacher can use any program or method they prefer without federal dictates or interference. Nothing in the law says otherwise.

The Reading First program is a part of No Child Left Behind that got bipartisan support. It provides an extra billion dollars a year to districts that agree to use methods based on the research funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development over the past 15 years. That research was conducted during the eight years of the Clinton administration as well as the tail end of the first Bush administration (I was there, working in the US Department of Education and was not aware of the NICHD research, which was still new at the time).

You may not like the findings of this research, even though it was reflected in the report compiled by Catherine Snow’s panel (“Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children,” 1997) and the National Reading Panel (2000), but if not, then you or your school or your district should not apply for Reading First dollars. NYC got a big chunk of Reading First dollars ($107 million), even though only a tiny proportion of its schools intended to abide by the law’s requirements.

The betting in DC is that the Democratic Congress will reauthorize Reading First. They don’t see it as partisan.


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