A collection of
national news articles and editorials about the corrupt
practices that provoked the Ed Department's Inspector
General to investigate and the subsequent scathing report on
the appointees at Reading First and their
favored friends in the textbook/testing industry. The
most recent items can be found on higher pages, older
items on the lower pages.
of Oregon: Ground Zero for
Reading First Corruption Investigation
Press, Feb. 3, 2007
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Education
researchers affiliated with the University of Oregon
are facing growing scrutiny in the coming months over
allegations that they financially benefited from their
involvement in the Bush administration's billion-dollar-a-year
early reading program.
The trouble first surfaced last
fall, when the federal Education Department's Inspector
General released an audit outlining widespread mismanagement
in the federal Reading First program, which gives states
grants to boost literary skills in grades K-3, including
nearly $50 million to Oregon schools.
The report detailed allegations
that several Oregon educators, while they were under
contract by the federal government to offer objective
advice, instead steered states toward textbooks and materials
they'd developed — reaping
hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties as a result.
Then, this week, the Chronicle
of Higher Education, considered the bible of higher ed
insiders, fleshed out the report's findings, in a 5,000-word
story headlined: "Reading
for Profit: Whistle-blowers allege that U. of Oregon scholars
steered bounty from the No Child Left Behind Act to themselves
and their colleagues."
And next month, the General Accounting Office, Congress'
independent audit agency, is due to produce its own report
on Reading First. Congressional hearings are looming, under
a Democratic-controlled Congress that's been increasingly
hostile to the Bush administration's approach to education.
Phil Weiler, spokesman for the university, declined comment
for this article.
The College of Education has long been considered one
of the school's crown jewels; its faculty are consistently
rated as among the best in the nation at pulling in research
Researchers affiliated with the university have been credited
with developing some of the nation's most widely used reading
programs and textbooks, mainly highly structured curriculums
and textbooks that tend to stress teaching phonics over
Such back-to-basics programs have
long been in favor with the Bush administration — so
much so that according to the report released in September
by the U.S. inspector general's office, the former director
of the Reading First program allegedly tried to steer
states toward adopting Oregon-developed curriculums,
though it's against the law for federal officials to
make any endorsements.
According to the report, several current
and former Oregon reading experts — including Edward Kame'enui, Doug
Carnine, Jerry Silbert and Deborah Simmons — were
involved in helping the federal government with Reading
Several of the educators advised states trying to draft
grants to get money from the Reading First program. And
four of the Oregon-affiliated researchers sat on a committee
reviewing textbooks to see how they matched up with the
guidelines set out by the U.S. Department of Education,
aiming to give states guidance about what to purchase to
meet Reading First's requirements.
In both cases, the inspector general's
report said, the educators stood to benefit financially
by encouraging the use of programs and commercial textbooks
they had a hand in developing or editing.
Sources at the University of Oregon point out that the
researchers in question were faulted for work they did
in side projects or spin-offs not directly associated with
the school. The university has also stepped up training
for faculty on potential conflicts of interest, and how
to avoid them, sources said.
The University of Oregon is also home to one of three
major technical-assistance centers for Reading First. Others
are at Florida State University and the University of Texas
at Austin. Future investigations of the three centers and
their operations are also in the pipeline, said Catherine
Grant, a spokeswoman for the federal Education Department's
Inspector General's office.
Roland Good III, an associate professor of school psychology
at Oregon, sat on the committee to review textbooks and
other programs, to give guidance to states. He's also the
creator of an early literacy model that lets teachers test
their students' progress in phonics and reading abilities
on a weekly basis, which won the panel's endorsement.
He said he did not participate in evaluations
of his product, now in use in 35 states according to the
Chronicle's report, and that he hasn't benefited financially
from its wider use, instead donating royalty income to
a research fund. His model is also available as a free
download, he said.
But he has traveled more widely to teach
states how to best use the model, Good said, adding, "I
consult, I present, I work for a day, I charge for a day's
Good said the Reading First program has helped children
make substantial literacy gains.
"I think Reading First has had a remarkable impact," Good
said. "I worry that it is going to become a political
casualty, if neither the Republicans or the Democrats embrace,
own and champion it. It's done some important work, but
that work is not done."
PDF copy of the Inspector General's