President’s wife tells educators Reading First program effective
Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 11:39 am
By: The Associated Press
The Messenger 07.30.08
By TRAVIS LOLLER
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — First lady Laura Bush criticized Congress for cutting funding to a $1 billion reading program that she called “a signature component” of the president’s No Child Left Behind Act.
In May, an Education Department study found no difference in reading comprehension between students who took part in the Reading First program and those who did not.
Bush, addressing an audience of 6,000 teachers and administrators at the 5th annual Reading First national conference in Nashville on Monday, said there was evidence the program is effective.
Reading First is a federal program designed to ensure that all children learn to read well by the end of third grade and targets the children who need the most help, including students from low-income families and English language learners, Bush said.
She praised the program as founded on “sound science” and not “the latest fads” and said educators attending knew firsthand how effective it could be.
“Reports show that Reading First students from nearly every grade and subgroup have made impressive gains in reading proficiency,” she said, adding that the states of Maryland, Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana have seen statewide reading gains of 10 percent or more since the program was created as part of the 2002 No Child Left Behind law.
Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon, who introduced Bush, dismissed his department’s own findings of the program’s ineffectiveness by saying the results were likely explained by teachers involved in Reading First sharing their methods with other teachers who were not part of the program.
In 2007, the Department of Education released data showing that scores in Reading First schools were up, but those scores weren’t compared with schools where Reading First wasn’t in place.
The May study, which was an interim report, made that comparison and found no difference in reading proficiency between schools that participated and those that did not.
A final report is expected by year’s end.
The program had come into question prior to that report when congressional investigators and Education Department Inspector General John Higgins found that federal contractors who gave states advice on which teaching materials to buy had financial ties to the publishers of Reading First materials.
But Bush on Monday hailed Reading First as a lifeline for over 1.8 million of America’s most vulnerable students.
She cited statistics that one in seven American adults lack everyday reading skills.
She criticized Congress for a 60 percent cut last year in funding to the Reading First program and warned that there are proposals to eliminate the program entirely.
“Congress must restore the full $1 billion appropriation for Reading First,” she said to the enthusiastic applause of those in the audience before charging them with spreading the word about the program.