Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Tragedy of Reading First: More Than Corruption

In “No Child Left Behind’s reading program marked ‘failure’,” author Rosita Johnson provides an accurate description of the most recent failure of Reading First and the extreme corruption connection to the program. The article, however, concludes that the goals of Reading First are “laudable” and seems to accept their claim that it is based on “scientific research.”

Reading First is based on the report of the National Reading Panel, which has been thoroughly dismantled by a number of respected scholars. Moreover, the recent failure of Reading First is only the latest of a number of failures. It has consistently failed on state, national and international test, despite the huge cost and extra time in reading instruction. Example: The secretary of education consistently claims that reading scores on the NAEP, a national test, are at an all-time high. But nearly all the increase occurred before Reading First was implemented.

Yes, the cronyism and corruption of Reading First are a tragedy, as the article concludes. But the tragedy goes well beyond this. It is also the wrong approach to helping children learn to read. The analogy with the war in Iraq is striking: The reasons for both were wrong, the implementation didn’t work, and Friends of Bush are profiting (and continue to profit).

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

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