From today’s NYT:
Reading Program Is Called Ineffective
President Bush’s $1 billion a year initiative to teach reading to low-income children has not helped improve their reading comprehension, according to a Department of Education report released on Thursday.
The program, known as Reading First, drew on some of Mr. Bush’s educational experiences as Texas governor, and at his insistence, Congress included it in the federal No Child Left Behind law that passed by bipartisan majorities in 2001. It has been a subject of dispute almost ever since, however, with the Bush Administration and some state officials characterizing the program as beneficial for young students, even after federal investigators found extensive conflicts of interest among its top advisers.
I happen to know a little bit about teaching reading. Before I left teaching middle school I had met all the requirements to be certified as a “Reading Specialist,” I just never applied for the certification before I decided to switch to teaching adults. And in the 6 short years that I taught kids, I can’t even begin to tell you how many “new” reading programs were thrust upon us. And you know what never ceased to amaze me? There’s nothing new about teaching reading. All these programs simply do is take a little of this and a little of that, call it something catchy, and put it in a shiny box. Oh yeah, and lobby the right people, the ones who run the budgets. Shall we count the programs?
- Recipe for Reading
- Wilson Reading
- Success for All
Oh that’s just a few. My reading teacher friends can fill in all the rest. In fact, one of my friends and I always said we should put together a “new” reading program so we could retire. Because in fact, there are elements of teaching reading that we have used as humans since the first symbols were scratched on the cave walls thousands of years ago. And the most useful element to teaching reading is the same as it always has been: access. Access to reading materials, access to teachers, access to time. So instead of spending $6 billion on a reading “program,” as a one-size-fits-all way of teaching our kids, why not spend it on hiring more teachers? Building more schools? Buying more books for school libraries? Hiring more school librarians?
Why not? Because teachers and librarians are not Bush Administrations cronies, that’s why. (Laura’s brief career notwithstanding.) From Common Dreams, almost exactly one year ago:
A scathing report issued today documents “substantial financial ties” between key advisors of Reading First, a controversial federal reading grant program, and publishers who benefited from the program.
The report, issued by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, called the findings “troublesome because they diminish the integrity of the Reading First program.”
The Kennedy report centers on four directors of the Reading First Technical Assistance Centers, who, the report says, were highly influential in advising states on which reading programs to adopt in order to qualify for federal funds.
According to the report, the directors had “extensive ties with education publishers” at the same time they were responsible for evaluating other publishers’ programs. The report concluded that such ties may have “improperly influenced actions.”
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., has called for a criminal investigation of Reading First by the Justice Department. According to Miller, the conflicts of interest uncovered “raises questions about criminal activity and criminal intent about what a number of these players were doing.”
“No Child Left Behind” and all of the ridiculous scams associated with it need to be eliminated. End of story.