Bad News, Comrades: Reading Did Not Improve
President Bush and the Republicans are no better than the naive Great Society liberals of yesteryear in thinking that a new law and new government spending can accomplish glorious things here and abroad, and one of those programs was called Reading First and it generated billions in spending. Billions.
I swear that the propaganda for this program reads like stuff from the Soviet Union in the 1960s or something: "This program focuses on putting proven methods of early reading instruction in classrooms. Through Reading First, states districts and receive support to apply scientifically based reading research—and the proven instructional and assessment tools consistent with this research—to ensure that all children learn to read well by the end of third grade. ... Only programs that are founded on scientifically based reading research are eligible for funding through Reading First."
Well, two things. First, it turns out that it didn't work. The Department of Education—more more specifically, named in the tradition of Elena Ceausescu, the "Institute of Education Sciences"—released a report yesterday (I don't see it online but the NYT reports on it here) that says, well, the program didn't do a darn thing.
But, second, that doesn't mean there weren't winners. It turns out that the program was really a subsidy to certain GOP-connected publishers, and that is what scientific really means.. The NYT reports: "federal officials and private contractors with ties to publishers had advised educators in several states to buy reading materials for the Reading First program from those publishers." No details on precisely which publishers, but inquiring minds would like to know.
Two years ago, there was a big shake up in the program when it turned out that the director had send emails referring to other publishers of books as "dirtbags." The full email message: "They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the [expletive deleted] out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags."
Now, that's some news: a federal program proves wasteful, morally hypocritical, ineffective, and corrupt. No comment yet from the "Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development." That, however, should not stop you from consulting Laura Bush's approved reading list for children available on whitehouse.gov.