Reading First shows results

Reading First is working.

Students in the Bush administration’s embattled $1 billion-a-year reading program have improved an average of about 15 percent on tests measuring fluency over the past five years, according to an analysis of data by the Education Department.

The House education committee is holding an oversight hearing Friday on charges the program is mismanaged and that the experts on its reading panel have conflicts of interest.

On Gadfly, reading researcher Reid Lyon argues that improve Reading First “remains incredibly important” and suggests how to make it even better.

Congress should make two key changes. First, federal funds should only be used for those programs and instructional models that have been found to be effective using experimental research designs that can determine their causal impact on student achievement in reading. “Scientifically-based” programs should be replaced with “scientifically-proven” ones.

Second, Congress should stop dancing around the “local control” issue and simply ask a federal agency to vet the reading research and to determine, on a regular basis, which reading programs make the “scientifically-proven” cut. In other words, Congress should create for reading (and perhaps other subjects where scientific research can be done) the equivalent of an FDA for education to ensure that states and school districts only spend their Reading First funds on interventions that have been conclusively shown to work. (The “What Works Clearinghouse” might serve as a model.)

When Lyon visits schools, he hears administrators and teachers “discussing whether particular instructional programs and strategies have sufficient evidence of effectiveness.” So why go back to the days when federal dollars funded educational snake oil?

Also: See Michael Petrilli’s “Hooked on Hysterics.”

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  1. Could be. But perhaps middle class kids are bored by an approach that works for kids who haven’t been exposed to many books or much parental reading. In any case, what works is what generates enthusiasm among the teachers doing the teaching. Perhaps in reading “one size misfits all”.

  2. what works is what generates enthusiasm among the teachers doing the teaching

    It had better work because as an end in itself generating teacher enthusiasm hardly seems worth the expense of the public education system.