Dear Deborah, I am glad to see that our discussion of Reading First is getting a lot of reaction, and quite a number of interesting and well-informed responses. I don't like mandates any more than you do, but I also think it is important to learn from experience and even, when it is cumulative, to learn from research. I think it would be irresponsible, perhaps anti-intellectual, to wave away the very extensive research that has been conducted over many years about reading. The research in "Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children," for example, should not be lightly dismissed. Surely there ...

Dear Diane, You're right, Reading First is not mandatory. I just visited a school in Oakland that turned down being part of a Reading First initiative because they thought it wrong-headed. I wish others were as professionally responsible. But the published correspondence between the leaders of Reading First demonstrates with what glee and persistence they went about the task of twisting arms—especially in Districts with needy kids under threat of NCLB sanctions. Diane, if the next administration chose to use the same pressure on behalf of Balanced Literacy (as California once did re whole-language—to my dismay at the time),...

Dear Deb, I don’t think you understand how the Reading First program works. No state or district is compelled by federal mandates to use the reading methods specified by the Reading First program. No state is required to apply for RF funding. No district is required to accept RF funding. The Reading First dollars are available only to states and districts that apply for them. Reading First is a competitive grant program. For example, in New York State, the RF money went only to districts that sought the money and then only for a limited number of schools that ...

Dear Diane, We were both irritated by Chancellor Klein's effort to mandate that all teachers in NYC use the Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop Method. So it surprised me that you were sympathetic to the Federal government for doing the same re Reading First. I sometimes think it may stem from where we see ourselves in the pecking order of power—with me always imagining myself in the position of the receiver not deliverer of orders. But the many unexpected ways intelligent people—including 5 year olds—make sense of the same world is why I love being a teacher! So...

Dear Deborah, So much is happening and I am afraid that I jumped ahead and wrote a blog entry on the upheavals in NYC before I saw your post about teaching reading. Here is the bottom line on the federal Reading First program. No one in the federal government, not the Department of Education, not the Congress, tells teachers how to teach reading. Any teacher can use any program or method they prefer without federal dictates or interference. Nothing in the law says otherwise. The Reading First program is a part of No Child Left Behind that got bipartisan support. ...

The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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