$1 billion boondoggle: Bush’s reading program doesn’t work


From today’s New York Times:

Published: May 2, 2008

President Bush’s $1 billion a year initiative to teach reading to low-income children has not helped improve their reading comprehension, according to a Department of Education report released on Thursday.

Read the study here:

Created under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, the Reading First program provides assistance to states and districts in using research-based reading programs and instructional materials for students in kindergarten through third grade and in introducing related professional development and assessments. The program’s purpose is to ensure that increased proportions of students read at or above grade level, have mastery of the essential components of early reading, and that all students can read at or above grade level by the end of grade 3. The law requires that an independent, rigorous evaluation of the program be conducted to determine if the program influences teaching practices, mastery of early reading components, and student reading comprehension. This interim report presents the impacts of Reading First on classroom reading instruction and student reading comprehension during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years.

The evaluation found that Reading First did have positive, statistically significant impacts on the total class time spent on the five essential components of reading instruction promoted by the program. The study also found that, on average across the 18 study sites, Reading First did not have statistically significant impacts on student reading comprehension test scores in grades 1-3. A final report on the impacts from 2004-2007 (three school years with Reading First funding) and on the relationships between changes in instructional practice and student reading comprehension is expected in late 2008.

One Response to $1 billion boondoggle: Bush’s reading program doesn’t work

  1. JimV says:

    I’m commenting without much to say, because I hate to see good posts like this go uncommented. The PBS News Hour did a segment on this tonight, with a Reading First Spokeswoman vs. a State Secretary of Education. I thought the educator won the debate, with an impassioned attack on NCLB.

    What would I do? Put some money into developing video games where the players have to read complex instructions quickly in order to progress through levels. Reading should start in the home (that’s how I learned, by having Dr. Seuss books read to me), but in a lot of families there isn’t a parent with the time or inclination to do that, I guess.

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