Re: [xmca] FW: Study: Bush's Reading First program ineffective

From: Cathrene Connery <cconnery who-is-at>
Date: Fri May 02 2008 - 11:22:19 PDT

Thanks, David! The only thing surprising about the ineffectiveness of
the Reading First Program is that the government is actually releasing
the results of the study!

David H Kirshner wrote:
> Of possible interest:
> -----Original Message-----
> ***********************
> From USA Today, Thursday, May 1, 2008. See
> jb20vbmV3cy9lZHVjYXRpb24vMjAwOC0wNS0wMS1yZWFkaW5nLWZpcnN0X04uaHRt
> ; see also
> ***********************
> Study: Bush's Reading First program ineffective
> By Greg Toppo
> A $1 billion-a-year reading program that has been a pillar of the
> Bush administration's education plan doesn't have much impact on the
> reading skills of the young students it's supposed to help, a
> long-awaited federal study shows.
> The results, issued Thursday, could serve as a knockout punch for the
> 6-year-old Reading First program - Congress has already slashed
> funding 60%. Reading First last year was the subject of a
> congressional investigation into whether top advisers improperly
> benefited from contracts for textbooks and testing materials they
> designed, and whether the advisers kept some textbook publishers from
> qualifying for funding.
> Advocates of Reading First, an integral part of the 2002 No Child
> Left Behind law, have long maintained that its emphasis on phonics,
> scripted instruction by teachers and regular, detailed analyses of
> children's skills, would raise reading achievement, especially among
> the low-income kids it targets. But the new study by the U.S.
> Education Department's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) shows
> that children in schools receiving Reading First funding had
> virtually no better reading skills than those in schools that didn't
> get the funding.
> The large-scale study looked at students in first through third grade
> from 2004 through 2006. For each of three samples, researchers
> studied 30,000 to 40,000 students, says IES Director Russ Whitehurst.
> "This is a big study."
> On the plus side, researchers found that Reading First teachers spent
> more time emphasizing phonics and other aspects of what many experts
> consider solid instruction - about 10 minutes more a day, or nearly
> an hour more a week. "Teachers' behavior was changed," Whitehurst
> says.
> But for all their effort, the study shows, their students' reading
> scores on standardized tests were nearly indistinguishable from those
> of students in other schools; in many cases, they may have been using
> the same materials, but their teachers may not have received the same
> training.
> "For all intents and purposes, the kids read at the same level in
> each grade," Whitehurst says.
> Congressional Democrats were quick to point out the program's ties to
> President Bush. In a statement, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said
> the Bush administration "has put cronyism first and the reading
> skills of our children last and this report shows the disturbing
> consequences. Instead of awarding scarce education dollars to reading
> programs that make a difference for our children, the administration
> chose to reward its friends instead."
> Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who presided over the April 2007
> hearings, said the report, "coupled with the scandals revealed last
> year, shows that we need to seriously re-examine this program and
> figure out how to make it work better for students."
> While critics will likely say the data portray Reading First as an
> expensive failure, Whitehurst speculates that the study may simply
> suggest that schools need to spend even more time on phonics and the
> like.
> But he also notes that states that got Reading First money earlier in
> the program's history actually got worse results than those that more
> recently got their federal funding. The difference may be unrelated
> to years spent in the program, Whitehurst says, as schools in more
> recently funded states tend to spend more per student to implement
> the program.
> He also says school districts may have spread their cash thin - they
> can use up to 20% of their Reading First funding outside of Reading
> First schools to improve reading skills districtwide. Eligible
> schools have high numbers of students from low-income families.
> Education analyst Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a
> Washington think tank that supports Reading First, says the study was
> poorly designed and "certainly not the last word on Reading First's
> effectiveness."
> For one thing, he says, researchers looked at "lackluster" Reading
> First schools that just barely qualified for grants, comparing them
> to schools that just barely missed getting grants.
> Whitehurst stands by the research, saying researchers vetted the
> schools in advance. "It's not a valid criticism."
> U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings had no immediate comment,
> but in a statement, Amanda Farris, the deputy assistant secretary who
> oversees Reading First, said Spellings consistently hears from
> educators and administrators "about the effectiveness of the Reading
> First program in their schools and their disappointment with Congress
> for slashing Reading First funds."
> "We know - and this IES study further proves - that Reading First
> funding has an impact on teaching practices," she said.
> Thursday's results are part of an interim study; a more complete
> analysis that followed students through the 2006-2007 school year
> could show more promising results when it's released in November.
> **********************************************
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Dr. M. Cathrene Connery
Assistant Professor of Education
Ithaca College
xmca mailing list
Received on Fri May 2 11:26 PDT 2008

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