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.
Is Set for Beleaguered U.S. Reading Program
New York Times, March 15, 2007
WASHINGTON, March 14 — Under
attack for improprieties uncovered in its showcase literacy
program for low-income children, the Department of Education
will convene an outside advisory committee to oversee
the program, known as Reading First, Education Secretary
Margaret Spellings said Wednesday.
Facing tough questions at a hearing
before a Senate subcommittee considering appropriations
for the Bush administration’s
signature education law, known as No Child Left Behind,
Ms. Spellings also promised to clean up the reading program
in other ways.
“Then they say, ‘From now
on, we’re using honest bats.’ ” Dr. Slavin
said. “I’m sorry, it’s 23 to nothing.
You can’t just say, ‘From now on.’ ”
In about a half dozen reports in
recent months, the department’s
inspector general detailed irregularities in the program,
which awards $1 billion a year in grants to states to buy
reading materials and teacher training. The reports also
found that federal officials overlooked conflicts of interest
among private contractors who advised states applying for
the grants. Ms. Spellings said her office’s general
counsel would examine the records of contractors accused
of conflicts of interest, and remove those with actual
conflicts from any role in the program.
Her promises came as Reading First
faces growing attacks while heading for reauthorization.
Representative David R. Obey, Democrat of Wisconsin and
chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said
this week that the problems with the program “make it even more difficult to
persuade a number of people, including me, to vote to renew
programs like No Child Left Behind,” of which Reading
First is a part.
Acknowledging that “there’s certainly room
for improvement” in Reading First, Ms. Spellings
told the Senate panel Wednesday that her department had
removed the program’s leaders; expanded its staff
to seven employees from two, to reduce its reliance on
so many private contractors with the potential for conflicts;
and accepted all the recommendations of the department’s
“I’d hate to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” the
secretary said, adding that despite the problems, the program
was improving reading among poor children.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Senator Tom Harkin, the
Iowa Democrat who is the subcommittee’s chairman,
said he, too, was disturbed by the accusations against
Reading First. “It has an odor that I don’t
like,” Mr. Harkin said. But he said he was not considering
After Ms. Spellings left the hearing,
Robert Slavin of Johns Hopkins University, whose Success
for All reading program was shut out of many states under
Reading First, said he did not think the secretary’s promises went
far enough. “I haven’t seen the slightest glimmer
of even intention to change,” Dr. Slavin said.
Because schools had already chosen their readng curriculums,
promises to clean up Reading First now meant little, he
said. He compared them to finding eight innings into a
baseball game with a score of 23 to 0 that the opposing
team had been playing with cork bats.
“Then they say, ‘From now on, we’re
using honest bats.’ ” Dr. Slavin said. “I’m
sorry, it’s 23 to nothing. You can’t just say, ‘From
now on.’ ”
Reading First was required by law
to finance only reading programs backed by “scientifically based reading
research,” and the Education Department was prohibited
from mandating or even endorsing specific curriculums.
But the program has been plagued by accusations that states
were steered toward a handful of commercial reading programs
and testing instruments.
With only two Education Department employees in charge
of the vast program, the administration relied largely
on private contractors to advise states on their applications
for grants, screen products for scientific validity and
weigh applications. The inspector general found that several
of these contractors wrote reading programs and testing
instruments that were competing for money, and that they
gave preference to products to which they had ties.
Ms. Spellings has maintained, and said again under questioning
Wednesday, that the problems with Reading First occurred
before she became education secretary.
She denied accusations from a former
political appointee at the department, Michael Petrilli,
who said she had essentially run Reading First from her
post as domestic policy adviser at the White House. Mr.
Petrilli is now a vice president at a nonprofit education
research foundation. Asked about Madison, Wis., where
educators gave up $2 million in Reading First money because
they would have had to drop a so-called balanced literacy
reading program that they said had been successful for
the district, Ms. Spellings said she was unfamiliar with
the particulars of Madison’s reading
program. But she defended Reading First’s ground
rules under her predecessor, Rod Paige, saying the program
did not exclude specific reading curriculums, but intended
only to ensure that they were backed by research.
PDF copy of the Inspector General's