The fight over Reading First

In response to the audit by the Office of the Inspector General of the Reading First program, which found officials favored certain reading programs, D-Ed Reckoning argues here and here that the real scandal is that advocates of “whole language” in the guise of “balanced literacy” tried to get federal funding for programs unsupported by “scientifically based reading research.” In short, Reading First was supposed to favor certain programs — the ones based on what we know about how students learn to read.

Looks like DoE stacked the panel with DI and other non-balanced reading program people in an effort to keep the balanaced/whole reading people off the panel who would undoubtedly permit non-scientifically based programs, like Reading Recovery, to get Reading First grants. Such is life when you are in an industry with an ideological agenda. It’s like battling the communists.

The audit complained that three people with “professional connections” to Direct Instruction were appointed to the panel that reviews state grant applications. D-Ed Reckoning quotes comments on a bulletin board by Martin Kozloff, an education professor who’s a Reading First panelist.

As to the finding that six panelists had some kind of professional connections to DI programs, this does not reveal a bias towards DI. Everyone on the panel must have had a professional connection to SOME program (Open Court, Success for All, Orton Gillingham); that is, they must have used a program; trained teachers to use it; or owned it. Can you imagine an expert in math who has no professional connection to a math text—is not partial to and has never used any? At the time the panel was created there were only three SBRR (scientifically based reading research) programs—Open Court, Reading Mastery, and Success for All. If there were six persons with connections to DI in the whole panel, this would be well below chance.

Eduwonk has more on the politics, and notes that Reading First just got a good review from the Center on Education Policy.

Update: In response to the response, Eduwonk notes that process does matter, not just results.

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