Reading First, a multibillion-dollar literacy program adopted in Oakland and more than 5,000 schools in the country as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, might not be superior to other reading programs, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education found.
In a study mandated by Congress, researchers found that kids in schools that participated in Reading First scored no better on comprehension tests than those at schools that didn’t take part, the Washington Post reported.
From the Post story (linked above):
“There was no statistically significant impact on reading comprehension scores in grades one, two or three,” Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the Education Department’s research arm, said in a briefing with reporters. He said students in both groups made gains.
“It’s possible that, in implementing Reading First, there is a greater emphasis on decoding skills and not enough emphasis, or maybe not correctly structured emphasis, on reading comprehension,” he said. “It’s one possibility.”
Whitehurst said there are other possible explanations. One, he said, is that the program “doesn’t end up helping children read.” He said the program’s approach could be effective in helping students learn building-block skills yet not “take children far enough along to have a significant impact on comprehension.”
Wow. I guess the Education Department’s independent research arm really is independent.
What’s your experience with Reading First, as a parent, a teacher, or a student? Is it too heavy on phonetics and light on comprehension, as critics say, or is it working?
Speaking of reading programs, the publisher of Open Court — SRA/McGraw-Hill — named Oakland the winner of the “2008 Pride of SRA Academic Recognition” award for test score gains made in the early grades after implementing its program in 1999. Read the release here.
image from Old Shoe Woman’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons