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Congress Works on 'Reading First 2.0'


So, now that the original Reading First program is officially dead, Congress and the administration are scrambling to create a new program that would retain the federal government's investment in literacy, without all the unfortunate conflict-of-interest issues and effectiveness questions.

It's up for debate whether there is a consensus out in Literacy Land as to how best to teach reading. But lawmakers are starting to put together reading legislation. My colleague, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo told you about a bill being crafted by the Senate. But over in the House, lawmakers are also working on the issue.

Freshman Rep. Jared Polis, D-Col., (who has an extensive background in education and is writing about his first term in Congress for CNN) is putting together a bill with Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky.

A Polis aide described the bill at a briefing yesterday organized by the National Association of State Boards of Education, which recently put out its own report on adolescent literacy.

The House proposal, which hasn't yet been introduced as an actual bill, would be authorized at $2.5 billion. It would dole out funding through formula grants to states, which would then make them available competitively through districts. States would also have to review the pre-service coursework of teachers to make sure they are getting the kind of training in literacy pedagogy they need.

The proposal is meant to be comprehensive, and a portion of the funding would go to services for ages zero to five and grades K-3. The largest share would go to grades 4-12.

President Obama included a $300 million literacy initiative in his budget, but was short on details. Although most folks think that Congress will wait until No Child Left Behind Act reauthorization to pass something on literacy, a reading program with a clear authorization (directions from Congress) probably has the best chance of getting funded.


Please tell me that someone is investigating Direct Instruction (DI) which is a model for teaching that emphasizes well-developed and carefully planned lessons designed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks. The curriculum covers developmental and remedial for K - 12. The delivery of precise, systematic, sequential teaching in addition to specific, meaningful and positive reinforcement creates a rigorous learning environment. DI programs are based on the theory that clear instruction eliminating misinterpretations can greatly improve and accelerate learning. DI attempts to control all the variables that influence student performances, so that more is taught in less time, thus being more cost effective.

An example of the result of implementing quality curriculum and delivering effective instruction: In 2005 every 8th grade student scored proficient or advanced on CSAP for the fifth year in a row at Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy Colorado Springs. CO. There is plethora of success stories in the field. There is also a great deal of misunderstanding about DI. Please check it out. You will be doing our country a great service.

I hope Congress uses rigorous research to inform the next iteration of Reading First. It has made a big difference in the lives of many children and educators over the past 7 years.

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