Reading & Literacy

Relationships Trumped Data in Reading First?

September 05, 2008 2 min read

In “Hooked on Phonies,” Mother Jones magazine takes on the well-worn tale of Reading First and the alleged cronyism in the federal effort to improve reading instruction. The article is in the Sept./Oct. issue of the independent, liberal magazine. It chronicles the unlikely success of the K-2 reading program Voyager Learning and its founder, Randy Best.

The story is mostly a rehash of what’s already been reported in Ed Week and other publications, like Best’s relationships with and contributions to key politicians, including President Bush, and his hiring of former school administrators. But there are a few interesting new twists and insights.

The most intriguing comment comes from G. Reid Lyon, the former chief of the child development and behavior branch at NICHD and an architect of the Reading First legislation. There had been a lot made of New York City’s adoption of Voyager after a group of prominent researchers, at Lyon’s request, offered a critical analysis of the balanced literacy program that was prescribed throughout the vast district. The article also recaps the career paths of several reading experts who were hired by Best to design the program, then went on advise the Ed Department on Reading First implementation and to direct the Reading First technical assistance centers. Background is here and here.

Lyon went to work for Best as a research director for a teacher education program, which, according to the article, has run into accreditation issues. Now on his own, Lyon shares some revelations about some of the decisions made under Reading First.

“Many programs, including Voyager, were probably adopted on the basis of relationships, rather than effectiveness data,” Mother Jones quotes Lyon as saying. “I thought all this money would be great; it would get into schools. But money makes barracudas out of people. It’s an amazing thing.”

Cindy Cupp, the fiery independent publisher whose complaints to federal officials—as well as those of the Success for All Foundation’s Bob Slavin—sparked a series of investigations into the $1 billion-a-year program, sent me her reaction to the piece:

“I have been a reading teacher for 39 years. Reading First had the potential to be the most significant program to improve reading instruction in the United States,” she wrote in an email as she was packing up to leave her house on Georgia’s coast to get ahead of Hurricane Hanna. “There are laws in place that should have protected us against what happened in the Reading First program. I still find it hard to believe that the solution is to take the federal funds away from the children and to do nothing to bring charges against those that have caused the problems.”

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

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.
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 Well-Being Webinar
The Social-Emotional Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on American Schoolchildren
Hear new findings from an analysis of our 300 million student survey responses along with district leaders on new trends in student SEL.
Content provided by Panorama

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 Spotlight Spotlight on Reading Intervention 2021
In this Spotlight, review data on reading learning gaps, assess the tasks ahead for educators teaching young learners, and more.
Reading & Literacy Opinion Q&A Collections: Reading Instruction
Learn from nearly 100 teachers sharing their advice on various aspects of reading instruction.
9 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on the Science of Reading 2021
In this Spotlight, review where the learning gaps are for those learning to read, determine if teachers are properly prepared and more.
Reading & Literacy What the Research Says Reading on Screen vs. Print: New Analysis Thickens the Plot on Promoting Comprehension
Electronic books could boost young children's comprehension more than print, but few enhance, rather than distract, new study finds
4 min read
Image of someone holding a tablet and a book.
Carolina Jaramillo/iStock/Getty