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Return Of The Reading First Ruckus

First, everyone said that Reading First was the best thing since sliced bread -- early intervention on literacy to reach kids that Title I sometimes missed.  Then came lots of accusations about conflicts of interest, and the departure of that Doherty guy from the USDE.  But still, there were reports that the program was popular and considered effective by states and districts that had implemented it.  Now, USA Today's Greg Toppo is reporting that a new study from IES, the research arm of the USDE, shows that Reading First is... ineffective. Doh! Read all about it. 

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The Reading First report was interesting for two reasons - first, the Bush Administration allowed the publication of a report (after holding it back for more than a year) that said its flagship initiative didn't work. But the second reason is more important - the report, granted that it is "interim," left out the "why". The report also was very short on any details of what was actually implemented in classrooms, which would help in answering precisely that question.

The "why" is absolutely critical here. If Reading First was just more of the same - what teachers had been doing all along (same textbooks, but with a longer time) then it is not a surprise that the program failed. After all, the whole idea was to fund "what works" - not "what we've always done."

It would be a real crime if Congress, and the Media, concluded that this was a failure of science in education, not just a failure of implementation. I hope that the administration will give the public the information necessary to make this very important distinction.

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