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Reading & Literacy

Revisiting Reading First

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 17, 2009 1 min read

MDRC has just put out a policy brief summarizing the impact of Reading First, the flagship reading program under the No Child Left Behind Act for which funding was eliminated in fiscal 2009.

Since I’m new to the curriculum beat, I walked past two rows of office cubicles to the desk of my colleague Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, who covered reading for Education Week for 12 years. I asked if the policy brief had any new information. The short answer from her is “no.”

It summarizes how the federal impact study for Reading First (see Kathleen’s article about that research here) found that students in Reading First schools did not have higher reading comprehension scores on average than students in schools that didn’t participate in the program.

But the brief makes a couple of points that I hadn’t picked up on earlier about the impact of Reading First. It says that the federal program led to schools’ having more reading coaches and more professional development and more support for struggling readers in participating schools than had previously been the case. The brief also says that the program “did appear” to increase reading comprehension for students in schools that bumped up reading instruction time beyond what was average for participating schools. The average, the impact study showed, was for schools to increase reading instruction by 7 to 10 minutes per day on top of the 50 minutes already committed to teaching reading according to “scientifically based” ways.

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