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Reading First - Your Tax Dollars to Support a Reading Dogma?


Sometimes I wonder about the term, "conflict of interest." In the case of the billion dollar federal grant program, Reading First, I have yet to see one media outlet report the actual amount of money that has changed hands due to a conflict of interest.

So what is worse:

1. A group of people that are emphatic about having children learn to read so they helped develop reading curriculum for a big company and end up on a granting agency board

2. A group of people that put their egos ahead of the end result of more children reading at grade level and where they may, or may not, have helped a big company develop reading curriculum - then end up on a granting agency board

I'll take #1, thank you. I'm not sure IF the Reading First folks profited, but the #2 group is making a big enough stink to make the general public suspect they did. Nice use of the media - reminds me of the Bush administration. Unfortunately, the #2 group (let's call them the whole language advocates) are depending on sheeple and teachers with dogma (whole language) to beat down the other dogma. A quick refresher on dogma (also known as pedagogy):

1. Whole language - a method of reading by which children guess at words using the context and pictures. They learn the most used words by sight, not by sounding out. Any research that indicates this is effective is not considered rigorous by any means.

2. Direct instruction/phonics based - a method by which children learn the individual sound of letters, letter combinations, then learn to sound out words. They work on fluency first, then work on meanings, comprehension, vocabulary later. Based on some pretty good research including the billion dollar federal research called Project Follow Through.

Back to the article above from

Consultants and product developers hired by Pearson, McGraw- Hill and other textbook publishers served on the panels established by the federal ``Reading First'' program to decide which textbooks should be funded under the program, the U.S. Education Department's inspector-general said in the audit.

So these consultants became board members on a federal granting agency that determines who and how states get grant money to improve reading. A consultant does not necessarily mean they have stocks in the textbook company, nor do they earn a percentage on texts sold. At worst, they might get more consulting jobs in the texts they helped design and I am not sure that fits the definition of "conflict of interest."

Let's move on:

These appearances of bias and impaired objectivity contributed to the allegations surrounding the administration of the Reading First program, namely that some individuals may have been promoting or pushing the reading products they were affiliated with,'' the department's inspector-general office said in the report, which was released today.

"Appearance of bias and impaired objectivity" doesn't sound like "they made a million dollars off the deal." In other words, it is the appearance that it MIGHT be biased that makes this bad.

The article sums it up very well:

Michael Petrilli, who helped the administration implement the No Child Left Behind law and now serves as vice president at the Thomas Fordham Foundation, a Washington-based research group, said he believes Doherty was faulted for taking a rigorous approach to finding the best-performing reading programs.

The presence of experts with connections to publishers was natural because the pool of qualified reviewers is too small to exclude them, Petrilli said.

So because a group of people didn't like the methodology/dogma/pedegogy, they were able to raise enough of a stink to bring the entire program to question.

Just so you know, I have not read a single media report that indicates the program is not working. Test score ARE rising in reading. And that is a bad thing we need to destroy because of a stupid war over reading dogma?