Reading First works in California

Reading First is raising achievement significantly in California, according to an Educational Data Systems study, reports Curriculum Matters.

. . . students in schools that implemented the program to a high degree had much higher achievement than students in schools that didn’t implement the program in a comprehensive way.

The pattern of higher achievement for students at Reading First schools in California even applied to English-language learners.

However, the 2009 omnibus funding bill zeroes out money for Reading First, based on a national study (which some have questioned) that found minimal impact.

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  1. I suppose I have no opinion on this, as I don’t live in California and my children have no reading problems – but do we REALLY need an expensive program to teach kids how to read? I mean, really! There are free online programs, like There are cheap online programs, like Progressive Phonics. I am opposed to any more “omnibus” spending bills. I am sick to death of the spending when America doesn’t have the money.

    Our government is super-quick to fund non-essentials, like the pet projects of Reid and Pelosi, and to bail out companies connected with Frank, but, honestly, they don’t give a rat’s *ss about the regular people, and couldn’t care any less if kids know how to read. Just more people to take advantage of their entitlement programs. Congress uses every bit of spending to “buy” the votes they need for re-election by appeasing the masses that don’t even pay taxes.

    To solve the school funding problem and a myriad of other problems, we need term limits. We definitely need to get Pelosi, Reid and Frank out of there – among many others. We should just put all citizens without a criminal record in a lottery and have them serve in Congress for four years – we’d be a lot better off. No hybrid cars. No paid vacations for their families, who apparently get to tag along on overseas trips and go shopping and be entertained – with a security detail – at the taxpayer’s expense. Don’t even get me started on Pelosi’s jet. It’s just obscene.

  2. Sharon McEachern says:

    Speaking of higher achievement for students — British researchers recently provided evidence helpful for teachers. Most of us assume that when our students are doodling they are not paying attention to us. But science says they are. In fact, those who doodle will actually remember your words 29 percent better than your non-doodlers. Ethic Soup blog has a good article on the subject at:

  3. Margo/Mom says:


    I don’t pretend to know a lot about Reading First, but I believe, that like many things that we think of as being “programs,” it is much more of a funding source with various parameters on what the funding can be used for. So, an evaluation has to be very sensitive to exactly what was going on–how the funds were in fact used. From the abstract, it looks as though the California study did account for “faithfulness of implementation” at the teacher level–an important point, since this is where the rubber really meets the road. In addition to finding success generally (compared to non-Reading First schools), they found that those who were highly faithful in implementation were more successful than those who were only partially faithful–which, to me, is a powerful indicator.

    I am not a big fan of budget earmarks in general–as they tend to tiptoe around budget processes and work counter to strategic planning. But I don’t know where you are coming from when you suggest that such things are a means to buy re-election from non-taxpaying voters. Where (and how) do these people live–and how can I get in? I don’t know if you are aware, but “omnibus” spending bills are simply the nations’ annual budget. Without them we would not be looking at the reform of public education, but the end (assuming that they are abolished at the state as well as federal level), along with law enforcement, the military, the treasury, the judiciary and a good many other functions of government.

    I live in a state with term limits. What it means is that the only institutional memory associated with the legislature that is longer than the limits is that of the lobbyists. Their influence has grown as they are always training in novices. Legislation either ping-pongs or becomes repetitive as newcomers introduce laws (with their names attached) to accomplish things that are already being accomplished by laws enacted by the previous legislature. We already have a system for making decisions based on a lottery of folks who meet minimum criteria. It’s called the jury system. I don’t know that it works badly when focused on a single decision with all pertinent information presented to them (although some would disagree with me). Would you really want to send a collection of jurors to Washington to make laws?

  4. Margo: It is not clear to me – even after reading the links above – exactly was RF is – whether it’s an actual program with books and flashcards and bells and whistles or whether it’s a teaching philosphy or system. In the case of the latter, I’m sure it wouldn’t take 300 million to implement as it did last year, according to the Eduflak web site:

    “That fear was realized, as the $300 million or so that was spent on RF last year was missing from the House version of the budget.”

    Yes, I do happen to know what the word “omnibus” means – thank you for asking. I also know that there were many, many earmarks in this current budget that are non-essentials and do not need to be there. Probably the RF program would be a far better investment than tattoo removal. Earmarks are connected to keeping certain voting blocks happy – whether they are companies that employ a lot of constituents in a particular state, or a particular group that has a lot of support – politicians can ensure their re-election by keeping these people happy.

    Spending 410 billion dollars after having passed a colossal spending spree of basically a trillion dollars means America is broke. It means that instead of relying on the federal government, states and individuals need to put some of that American initiative into action and either find other ways of doing things, or cut their budgets elsewhere, or do without. Everyone must take this attitude and stop the government overspending. Sure, 5 billion in earmarks in a 410 billion budget sounds quite insignificant – but it adds up, and I’m not convinced that everything in the budget not counted as an earmark is necessary.

    Listen, I am one tapped out taxpayer. From the federal level to the local county level, I’m done. I’m tired of schools – local and otherwise, complaining about their budgets. I have a personal budget that I would like to be larger, too, but that’s just too darned bad, isn’t it? Our schools are in a constant state of want for one reason or another. They merged the city and county schools, hired more beurocrats for created jobs, and they’re much worse off now than they were. For the past ten years they have raised our property taxes as many times as legally possible. When they couldn’t do it this year, the county came around and “assessed” our property, raising the value another 14K, which translates into higher property taxes.

    IMO, the schools need to be either state funded OR federally funded…not both. We have no input. People who aren’t even teachers or principals decide on curriculum. It’s a terrible system. They’re getting more money than they ever have and yet the test scores are abysmal and the schools are still violent – even in the ‘burbs where we live.

    I have a household budget and I just can’t raise it significantly on a whim like our men and women in Washington can. When my husband lost his job several years ago, we cut back. He found a job, but it took months. In the mean time we didn’t go out and run up the ol’ credit cards – akin to deficit spending. We didn’t take vacations to Europe. We didn’t buy a jet and fly all over the place. We didn’t even have health care. We didn’t think we could spend ourselves into prosperity. Neither should Washington or anyone else wanting a piece of the pie – whether it’s for a seemingly good thing like RF or something stupid like tattoo removal.