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Time for a New Federal Reading Program?

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There is a lot of discussion and speculation about how the federal education agenda will play out under the Obama administration, and whether the new president will take up reading reform in the wake of the controversy over Reading First, and the likely demise of that program.

In a lengthy letter to the next president, Eduflack urges President-elect Obama to be "bold and audacious" and break the status quo in education. He then makes some general recommendations for policy decisions on key issues, such as accountability and school choice and teachers.

He offers this on reading:

"Reading—I have reluctantly accepted that Reading First is dead. But for decades, the federal government has funded programs to boost reading achievement, particularly among minority and low-income populations. We need to continue that commitment, and Title I doesn't get the job done. For all of its flaws, RF has left a legacy of evidence-based instruction and ensuring we are doing what is proven effective. Let's use that to build a new, better reading approach. Scientifically based reading is in place in every Title I district across the country. Now is not the time to change horses. Now is the time to build on successes, showing all families—from those in our urban centers to those in our most rural of communities—that we are committed to making sure every child is reading proficient and reading successful."

It would be hard to argue with a plan for "a new, better reading approach," but despite the consensus on the need for proven strategies for improving instruction and raising achievement, I suspect there would be a pretty intense debate among educators, scholars, and policymakers about what that would look like.

Any ideas? What would your recommendation be for a federal reading initiative that does not overstep the federal prohibition against mandating curriculum or assessment or instructional approaches? Do you think the new administration will (or should) push for another federal reading program?

2 Comments

I think just about everyone can agree that RF's greatest failure was that of implementation -- how money was spent, how certain programs were prioritized and others weren't, and how little oversight was given to the issue of programmatic fidelity. If we all agree that 1) every child can and should be reading proficient; 2) every child deserves instructional strategies that are proven effective; and 3) every teacher needs instructionally-focused training and support to get kids reading, then we have a starting point. Yes, there would be an intense debate. But it is now an implementation debate. We shouldn't have to rehash the debate on the why or even the how.

I agree that implementation is the problem. I am tutoring a student that apparently was just "shuffled" into Special Ed class instead of being taught and helped to read.....he is doing great after only 2 months!!! We need to "use" the extra funds, not just "receive" them!!

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