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Spellings Comes to Defense of 'Reading First'

Has Reading First helped elementary students improve their reading comprehension?

Not really, says the Institute of Education Sciences.

Yes, says the secretary of education, who is one of the program's biggest cheerleaders.

Margaret Spellings today released an analysis of Reading First data that says 38 states report reading comprehension gains among 1st graders whose schools received money from the program. A similar percentage of states report increases in comprehension in grades 2 and 3, as well as among English language learners and students with disabilities.

These numbers are at odds with the report released last month by the department's research arm, which conducts research independently of the secretary. Reading First defenders suggest that the study's design was flawed. (See my item and criticisms by Mike Petrilli and Reid Lyon.) Certainly the program's critics will say the same thing about the new data.

Will the new data save the program ? It's too late in the House, where the chairman of the appropriations committee appears to convinced by the first study. We'll see what the Senate does.

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