Reading & Literacy

The Next Federal Reading Initiative Could be Broadest Yet

May 15, 2009 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In the wake of the demise of the federal Reading First program last year there’s been a lot of speculation about when and how the federal government would again attempt to tackle the nation’s significant literacy problems. There’s been little question about whether there would eventually be a successor to Reading First, which pumped about $6 billion into K-3 reading instruction across the country since 2002.

There’s been more discussion of the issue lately (Eduflack outlines his own suggestions here). Now there’s a draft bill circulating which details a federal reading effort that would target children of all ages, essentially from birth to high school.

Could this signal that the recent federal hiatus from reading-reform issues, prompted by the controversy over Reading First, might be coming to an end? A Senate aide confirms that there is bipartisan interest in the bill, which reflects the handiwork of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based organization that has focused a lot on adolescent literacy. The bill, I’m told, could be introduced after Congress’ Memorial Day break.

The proposal holds true to many of the tenets of Reading First, particularly the need for instruction grounded in skills that also builds vocabulary and comprehension. But it goes further in making writing a key component of effective reading instruction, as well as the importance of students’ motivation to read.

Reading First drew criticism from many in the field for ignoring those elements. Some other additions might answer some of that criticism as well: There is an expressed emphasis on what are described as “the characteristics of effective literacy instruction.” Under that banner students would be exposed to a variety of texts, reading practice, and text-based collaborative learning. Also emphasized are language development, the family’s role in building literacy, and the need to build students’ interest in reading.

Instructional materials used by grantees in the program would be need to be “based on scientifically valid literacy research,” the draft says. There’s no detail about what that term means, and under Reading First the demand for materials and strategies based on “scientifically based reading research” caused a lot of confusion and was interpreted in different ways. It also led to a lot of commercial products marketed as “research-based” that didn’t necessarily meet the standard.

Reading First was also slammed for real or perceived conflicts of interest among federal officials and consultants involved in the program. The draft bill, and new rules instituted at the Ed. Dept. in the wake of the Reading First controversy, try to address those problems.

The proposal, of course, carries a hefty price tag: $2.3 billion.

Do you think the feds should get back into the reading reform business? Does the draft bill address all the key points, and adequately tackle the problems in Reading First?

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


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

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
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
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
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
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
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

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 Literacy in Education
In this Spotlight, evaluate the possible gaps your current curriculum may have and gain insights from the front-lines of teaching.
Reading & Literacy Creator of 1619 Project Launching After-School Literacy Program
The 1619 Freedom School, led by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, will make its curriculum a free online resource in 2022.
4 min read
Collage of an American Flag.
Collage: Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty)
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
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Supporting Students With Structured Literacy
Structured Literacy is instruction that’s informed by the science of reading. Read this white paper from Lexia® Learning: Structured Lite...
Content provided by Lexia Learning