From it’s inception, the primary focus of No Child Left Behind was supposed to be improving the reading skills of American students.
And, as part of that effort, the law required the use of “scientifically-based research” to find the methods that would best accomplish that goal.
While those were the high-minded concepts written into the legislation, things quickly went off track.
From the beginning, W and his friends at the Department of Education were pushing schools to use a system called Reading First, claiming it was the best instructional program available.
Except, according to a recent report, they didn’t have any of that “scientifically-based research” to back them up.
Children who participate in the $1-billion-a-year reading initiative at the heart of the No Child Left Behind law have not become better readers than their peers, according to a study released today by the Education Department’s research arm.
“There was no statistically significant impact on reading comprehension scores in grades one, two or three,” Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, director of the Institute of Education Sciences said in a briefing with reporters.
However, there’s so much more to the Reading First story than just it being a not particularly effective (and rather expensive) instructional program.
Turns out it’s also another in the long line of “mismanagement and financial conflicts of interest” generated by the current administration to benefit it’s friends (aka contributors).
Five years later, an accumulating mound of evidence from reports, interviews and program documents suggests that Reading First has had little to do with science or rigor. Instead, the billions have gone to what is effectively a pilot project for untested programs with friends in high places.
Department officials and a small group of influential contractors have strong-armed states and local districts into adopting a small group of unproved textbooks and reading programs with almost no peer-reviewed research behind them.
The commercial interests behind those textbooks and programs have paid royalties and consulting fees to the key Reading First contractors, who also served as consultants for states seeking grants and chaired the panels approving the grants. Both the architect of Reading First and former education secretary Roderick R. Paige have gone to work for the owner of one of those programs, who is also a top Bush fundraiser.
So, we have another five billion or so paid out to friends of W with little to show for it.
But the really sad part of this latest report is that it’s just one small piece of the incredible record of educational malpractice racked up by the Department of Education and NCLB since 2003.