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Ed Sec Comes to Reading First's Defense

Ed Sec Margaret Spellings writes this week in the Salt Lake Tribune and the N.J. Herald News in defense of Reading First, a bit late perhaps for some advocates and observers who were waiting for her to make such a case a month ago when scathing headlines followed IES's release of the interim impact study.

Some of those headlines may have unfairly or inaccurately described the results, including these: "Failing to Read," "Billion Dollar Boondoggle," "U.S. Reading Program a Failure, study says." The study's bottom line is that the $1 billion-a-year funding stream has not led to improved reading comprehension, although it is difficult to draw any conclusions from such interim findings.

But the statement by the Ed Dept.'s Amanda Farris in this Education Week article may not have made a strong case either. It touted anecdotal evidence, primarily supportive comments Spellings heard during her visits to schools and events in 20 states. Those schools, no doubt, were carefully selected for their success or satisfaction with the program. It wasn't the kind of evidence that Spellings and other federal officials have demanded.

"In God we trust, all others bring data," has been the oft-repeated demand from Spellings and others. So far, however, the hard data on the effectiveness of Reading First is confusing and limited.

In her opinion piece this week, which may pop up in other papers around the country, she points to several schools and districts that have data to show their progress. Many state RF directors have reported gains in reading achievement among participating schools. The final impact study, expected later this year, may offer a clearer picture.

What evidence have you seen that Reading First is or isn't working?

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