Monday, June 02, 2008

Reading First Cronyism and Corruption...

Read the response to Rosita Johnson's article by Stephen Krashen below.

No Child Left Behind’s reading program marked

Author: Rosita Johnson

A key education program created under George W. Bush's
No Child Left Behind Act has failed to produce
results, according to a recent study by the Institute
of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S.
Department of Education. The study concluded that
there was no difference in the reading comprehension
scores between students who participated in the
Reading First program and those who did not.

The Department of Education has spent more than $6
billion on Reading First since 2002, about $1 billion
a year. Reading First has been a core program of the
No Child Left Behind Act with 1.5 million students in
grades kindergarten to third grades participating in
5,200 schools in 13 states.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate
Education Committee, said, “The Bush administration
has put cronyism first and the reading skills of our
children last, and the report shows the disturbing
consequences.” Because of the criticism and
accusations of conflict of interest of Reading First
officials, congressional hearings were held in April

The hearings disclosed how those who implemented and
designed the $1 billion a-year Reading First program
profited from steering states and school districts to
purchase certain textbooks, tests and services.
Reading First was also charged with mismanagement.

Chris Doherty, former director of Reading First, sent
an email to a staff member which exposed his motives
when referring to a reading program he disapproved.
Said Doherty, “They are trying to crash our party and
we need to beat the [expletive] out of them in front
of all the other would-be party crashers who are
standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we treat
dirt bags.”

Doherty and other Reading First officials awarded
grants only when states and school districts used the
reading programs they favored such as McGraw-Hill’s
Direct Instruction and Voyager Expanded Learning. Even
when other programs such as Reading Recovery and
Success for All complied with the legal guidelines and
criteria, they were not approved to be used. They were
the “dirt bags.”

The Expert Review Panel did not function. Some grant
applications were funded without documentation, while
others were denied for no reason, the hearings

During the hearings, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.),
chair of the House Education Committee, told a panel
of Reading First officials, “This sounds like a
criminal enterprise to me. You don’t get to override
the law. But the fact of the matter is that you did.”

Following the hearing, House Appropriations Committee
Chair Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.) led the fight to cut
Reading First’s budget from $1 billion to $393 million
in 2008. Bush’s fiscal 2009 budget seeks to restore
funding to previous levels. Chris Doherty resigned
right before the Department of Education Inspector
General, John Higgins, published his Investigation
Report of Reading First.

Actually, the goals and purpose of the Reading First
program are laudable: "To assist States and local
school districts to establish reading programs for low
income students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade based on
scientific research resulting in these students being
able to read on grade level."

The tragedy of the Reading First Program, however, is
not the program itself but the officials who
mismanaged it and their total disregard for the laws
and guidelines under which the department was to
operate. Cronyism and corporate greed was allowed to
override the educational needs of the young children
the program was to serve.
The Tragedy of Reading First: More Than Corruption
Published in the People's Weekly World, May 24, 2008

In “No child left behind’s reading program marked
‘failure’,” author Rosita Johnson provides an accurate
description of the most recent failure of Reading
First and the extreme corruption connection to the
program. The article, however, concludes that the
goals of Reading First are “laudable” and seems to
accept their claim that it is based on “scientific

Reading First is based on the report of the National
Reading Panel, which has been thoroughly dismantled by
a number of respected scholars. Moreover, the recent
failure of Reading First is only the latest of a
number of failures. It has consistently failed on
state, national and international test, despite the
huge cost and extra time in reading instruction.
Example: The secretary of education consistently
claims that reading scores on the NAEP, a national
test, are at an all-time high. But nearly all the
increase occurred before Reading First was

Yes, the cronyism and corruption of Reading First are
a tragedy, as the article concludes. But the tragedy
goes well beyond this. It is also the wrong approach
to helping children learn to read. The analogy with
the war in Iraq is striking: The reasons for both were
wrong, the implementation didn’t work, and Friends of
Bush are profiting (and continue to profit).

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

1 comment:

  1. What channels must a school district follow to break away and denounce these practices? I am thinking a voter referendum...