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Marquette University Receives $4M US Reading Grant

Dani McClain:

Spellings was in town to present the grant to Marquette University, but she used the opportunity to defend the success of Early Reading First and Reading First, two initiatives financed through the law. "No Child Left Behind has taken a flat line in student achievement, and it's starting to tick upward," Spellings said at a meeting with the Journal Sentinel editorial board. Congress already has cut back on the $1 billion-a-year Reading First initiative. The program's budget was reduced by 60% last year following revelations of mismanagement. The Education Department's inspector general reported in 2006 that Reading First administrators had violated conflict-of-interest rules when awarding grants and steered contracts to favored textbook publishers. The program's director at the time, Chris Doherty, resigned shortly before the report was made public. Also, an Education Department study made public in May concluded that Reading First failed to improve reading comprehension among participating children. Spellings said Thursday that "the ship has been righted" and that she hopes the agency will avoid further cuts to the program.

Study: Reading First Fails to Boost Reading Skills

Maria Glod:

Children who participate in the $1-billion-a-year reading initiative at the heart of the No Child Left Behind law have not become better readers than their peers, according to a study released today by the Education Department's research arm. The report from the Institute of Education Sciences found that students in schools that use Reading First, which provides grants to improve grade-school reading instruction, scored no better on reading comprehension tests than peers in schools that don't participate. The conclusion is likely to reignite the longstanding "reading wars," because critics argue the program places too much emphasis on explicit phonics instruction and doesn't do enough to foster understanding. Reading First, aimed at improving reading skills among students from low-income families, has been plagued by allegations of mismanagement and financial conflicts of interest. But the Bush administration has strenuously backed the effort, saying it helps disadvantaged children learn to read. About 1.5 million children in about 5,200 schools nationwide, including more than 140 schools in Maryland, Virginia and the District, participate in Reading First. The congressionally mandated study, completed by an independent contractor, focused on tens of thousands of first-, second- and third-grade students in 248 schools in 13 states. The children were tested, and researchers observed teachers in 1,400 classrooms.
Many links, notes and a bit of (local) history on Reading First here. The complete report can be found 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.

More on Madison's Reading First Rejection and Reading Recovery

Joanne Jacobs:Reading War II is still raging as reading experts attack a New York Times story on Madison’s decision to reject federal Reading First funds in order to continue a reading program that the Times claims is effective. Education News prints as-yet unpublished letters to the Times from Reid Lyons, Robert Sweet, Louisa Moats, Linnea Ehri and Joanna Williams, Timothy Shanahan and Mark Seidenberg. Professor Moats, formerly co-investigator of the NICHD Early Interventions Project, a five-year, federally funded study of reading instruction in high-poverty schools, points out that the Office of Management and Budget “recently gave the Reading First program its highest (and unusual) rating of effectiveness.” Joanne will be speaking in Milwaukee on March 23, 2007. More: Reading First...

Madison's Reading Battle Makes the NYT: In War Over Teaching Reading, a U.S.-Local Clash

Diana Jean Schemo has been at this article for awhile:The program, which gives $1 billion a year in grants to states, was supposed to end the so-called reading wars — the battle over the best method of teaching reading — but has instead opened a new and bitter front in the fight. According to interviews with school officials and a string of federal audits and e-mail messages made public in recent months, federal officials and contractors used the program to pressure schools to adopt approaches that emphasize phonics, focusing on the mechanics of sounding out syllables, and to discard methods drawn from whole language that play down these mechanics and use cues like pictures or context to teach. Federal officials...

Comments on BOE Progress Report for December

Madison School Board President Johnny Winston, Jr. (thanks!) posted a rather remarkable summary of recent activity today. I thought it would be useful to recall recent Board Majority inaction when reviewing Johnny's words: It's remarkable to consider that just a few short years ago, substantive issues were simply not discussed by the School Board, such as the Superintendent's rejection of the $2M in Federal Reading First Funds (regardless of the merits, $2M is material and there should have been a public discussion). Reductions in the District's annual ($332M+ this year) spending increases were thinly discussed (May, 2004). Today, we know that the School District has been running a structural deficit for years, something previous Board Majority's were apparently unaware of...

On, Off and On Again 11/27/2006 Madison School Board High School Redesign Discussion

Susan Troller wrote this on Tuesday, 11/21/2006:A presentation on the redesign of Madison's high school curriculum scheduled for next week's School Board meeting has been scrapped for the immediate future, School Board President Johnny Winston Jr. confirmed late this morning. "We'll hold off on changes until we get a better feel for how the process will work," Winston said. Winston, other School Board members and members of the administration met this morning to discuss high school curriculum proposals, including changes in accelerated classes for freshmen and sophomores at East High.Andy Hall wrote this on 11/22/2006: Madison School Board President Johnny Winston Jr. said community outcry and confusion over East's plans to restructure its classes likely will dominate the board's discussion...

Significant errors and misconceptions - “Billions for an Inside Game on Reading" by the Washington Post

Robert W. Sweet, Jr.This letter and the enclosure are an appeal to you for help in alerting your readers to significant errors and misconceptions in an article printed in the Post on October 1, 2006 titled "Billions for an Inside Game on Reading" by Michael Grunwald. He asserted that Reading First grants were awarded to preferred reading programs, and that billions of dollars were misspent because the requirement in Reading First that reading programs be based on "scientifically based reading research" were ignored. Below is a summary of the essential facts that document the errors and misconceptions that have damaged one of the most effective programs to teach vulnerable children to read. Attached to this letter is a detailed presentation...

Audit Finds Education Department Missteps

Ben Feller:A scorching internal review of the Bush administration's billion-dollar-a-year reading program says the Education Department ignored the law and ethical standards to steer money how it wanted. The government audit is unsparing in its view that the Reading First program has been beset by conflicts of interest and willful mismanagement. It suggests the department broke the law by trying to dictate which curriculum schools must use. Reading First aims to help young children read through scientifically proven programs, and the department considers it a jewel of No Child Left Behind, Bush's education law. Just this week, a separate review found the effort is helping schools raise achievement. This audit confirms that Reading First is yet another example of rampant...

ED.Gov: New Report Shows Progress in Reading First Implementation and Changes in Reading Instruction

US Department of Education:Children in Reading First classrooms receive significantly more reading instruction and schools participating in the program are much more likely to have a reading coach, according to the Reading First Implementation Evaluation: Interim Report, released today by the U.S. Department of Education. The report shows significant differences between what Reading First teachers report about their instructional practices and the responses of teachers in non-Reading First Title I schools, which are demographically similar to the Reading First schools. "The goal of Reading First is to help teachers translate scientific insights into practical tools they can use in their classrooms," Secretary Spellings said. "The program is helping millions of children and providing teachers with high-quality, research-based support. As we...

Revolution on Wheels: High Tax States See a Stealth Migration Out

Related to Johnny Winston, Jr.'s post below, Karen Hube notes a significant outbound migration from many high tax states [Wisconsin is ranked 5th in tax burden as a % of per capita income (11.4%)] including Minnesota to South Dakota:NOT SURPRISINGLY, MANY STATES are feeling the drain of fleeing taxpayers. At a time of serious competition between states for jobs and tax revenues, "states with high taxes are losing their wealthiest and most successful taxpayers, as well as businesses, and they're not creating as many jobs," says Dan Clifton of Americans for Tax Reform. Serious fiscal troubles started for most states after the stock market tanked in 2000. "They had been matching their spending habits with the flood of revenues that...

2006-2007 MMSD Budget Comments

Jason Shepherd writing in the December 29, 2005 Isthmus:Superintendent Art Rainwater: says the "most frustrating" part of his job is knowing there are ways to boost achievement with more resources, but not being able to allocate them. Instead, the district must each year try to find ways to minimize the hurt.Board member Lawrie Kobza wants the board to review its strategic plan to ensure all students are being challenged with a rigorous curriculum.Carol Carstensen, the current Board President says the "heterogenous" groupings, central to the West controversy (English 10, 1 curriculum for all), will be among the most important curriculum issues for 2006.Ruth Robarts is closely watching an upcoming review of the district's health insurance plans and pushing to ensure...

We need a new School Board

Carol Carstensen�s recent letter to the editor of the Wisconsin State Journal (�Carstensen replies to Robarts�) illustrates the choices before the public in this spring�s school board elections. Many of these choices revolve around the core question of whether one can support progressive ideals and challenge the board�s go along and get along status quo. I believe that it is not only possible but necessary for progressives to question the status quo � particularly if it results in serious board consideration of balance between employee wages and benefits as part of a comprehensive search for ways to preserve our current staff levels and programs in view of current funding realities. In her letter, Carol Carstensen erroneously reduces my suggestions to...

WSJ Opinion: Reading between the lines of rigidity

The WSJ Editorial page published a very useful editorial this morning on the Madison School District's rejection of $2M in federal Reading First funds for reading improvement programs:Taxpayers have the right to ask why the Madison School District would turn its back on a $2 million grant. Read a number of other articles on the district's rejection of the $2M reading first funds here....

Norm and Dolores Mishelow Presentation on Milwaukee's Successful Reading Program

Norm and Dolores Mishelow gave an informative presentation Sunday on their successful Milwaukee Barton School and 27th Street school reading programs. Background 3.7MB MP3 - ideal for your MP3 Player/iPod | Quicktime Video Transcripts to Follow. DVD copy is also available - email me if you'd like one: zellmer at mailbag dot com In a related matter, Madison School Board Member Carol Carstensen writes in the Wisconsin State Journal in support of the District's recent rejection of $2m in Federal Reading First money (click below)....

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