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School Improvement RFP of the Week (1)

What About These State Reading First Advisory Committees?

From Monday's issue of K-12Leads and Youth Service Markets Report

Announcement: Reading First Team Due May 22 (May 2) Department of Public Instruction, North Dakota

Their Description: The State of North Dakota, acting through its Department of Public Instruction, hereafter known as “STATE” is soliciting proposals for individuals to serve as Reading First Team Members.

STATE is seeking 15-20 individuals to serve as Reading First Team Members who will be trained and updated in the Reading First regulations and criteria; attend the National Reading First Conference or other related Reading First trainings offered throughout the country....

Reading First Team Members are comprised of teachers with a degree in elementary education or reading who also have experience in reading instruction, reading assessment, scientifically based reading research, professional development training, grant review, program evaluation and reading programs at the elementary level, which requires a high skill set to facilitate training to multiple schools. Knowledge of elementary education and reading experience is critical to facilitate work required for the Reading First Program....

Successful individuals must have an educational background and experience, the ability to travel, provide training and days for follow-up office work (if needed) to serve on the Reading First Team....

Preference will be given to individuals who:

• have a masters degree in education or similar field closely related to education
• have a degree in elementary education or reading
• have minimum three years experience with reading instruction for grades K-3
• have knowledge in Reading First programs
• have knowledge in scientifically based reading research

Team members must also have the knowledge in one or more of the following:

• reading programs (core programs, supplemental programs, and intervention programs)
• reading assessments
• analyzing data
• school leadership
• professional development training with emphasis in reading
• review of grants
• evaluation of programs...

The CONTRACTOR will establish safeguards to prohibit employees from using their positions for a purpose that constitutes or presents the appearance of personal or organizational conflict of interest or personal gain.

My Thoughts:
Some RFPs are about immediate sales. Others are about advancing or protecting one’s interests in a market. This is one of the latter.

It’s hard to meet the selection criteria without having some opinion about the reading programs available for sale in the market. These positions are going to be filled, and some providers will try to fill them with advocates. As an old Cold Warrior, I have to say it would be foolish for any school improvement provider not to participate in the process. In principle, pushing proponents onto this committees has conflict of interest implications. In practice, unilateral disarmament is not likely to create a level playing field. In our real world of poorly regulated competitive markets, a balance of conflicting interests may be the best we can hope for until the Reading First program - especially its Scientifically Based Reading Research provision - is cleaned up at the federal level.

As for the ultimate morality of this policy, consider theologian Reinhold Neihbur in Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932): “Civilization depends upon the vigorous pursuit of the highest values by people who are intelligent enough to know that their values are qualified by their interests and corrupted by their prejudices.” Or, from Christian Faith and the World Crisis (1941) “There are historic situations in which refusal to defend the inheritance of a civilization, however imperfect, against tyranny and aggression may result in consequences even worse than war.”

K-12Leads and Youth Service Markets Report is a comprehensive weekly web-enabled report delivered by email on Monday. It covers grant and contract RFPs issued by every federal and state education and social services agency and every school district over the internet. K-12Leads is for school improvement providers who understand that their offerings are not commodities, rarely displayed as such, and so easily missed by traditional computer-based “word search” systems.

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