A long-awaited review of beginning-reading programs by the federal What Works Clearinghouse found few comprehensive or supplemental programs that have evidence of effectiveness in raising student achievement. But what is missing from the review may be even more telling: None of the most popular commercial reading programs on the market had sufficiently rigorous studies to be included in the review by the clearinghouse.
And Edweek is surprised why? It's not exactly a secret that valid research on reading programs is scant. The situation is even worse for math. This is the phony set-up for the sucker punch:
Just one program was found to have positive effects or potentially positive effects across all four of the domains in the review—alphabetics, fluency, comprehension, and general reading achievement. That program, Reading Recovery, an intensive, one-on-one tutoring program, has drawn criticism over the past few years from prominent researchers and federal officials who claimed it was not scientifically based.
Federal officials and contractors tried to discourage states and districts from using Reading Recovery in schools participating in the federal Reading First program, citing a lack of evidence that it helps struggling readers.
This isn't the first time Edweek has whored itself for Reading Recovery. They even stooped to using Dick Allington, the Dick Van Patten of bad education research, to lend credibility to their spin.
What Edweek is trying to do is to misleadingly tie in that Reading Recovery has an alleged valid research base and should not have been excluded from Reading First funding while other reading programs which lack a valid research base were funded.
There are at least two problems with this line of reasoning.
First, the Reading First statute doesn't require that the reading programs funded thereunder have a valid research base. The statute only requires that the eligible reading programs be based upon or consistent with the scientifically based reading research. There are lots of good arguments that this should have been a requirement, but it wasn't made a requirement. The requirement was unfortunately loosened. So we hired a bunch of reading experts to determine whether programs were consistent with the SBRR. And, as it turns out, they determined that Reading Recovery wasn't consistent with the SBRR. And, there's good reason to think that the WWC dropped the ball on its evaluation of Reading Recovery.
Second, the Reading First statute requires that reading programs eligible for Reading First funding contain the five essential components of reading instruction (ECRI). Reading Recovery lacks at least one of those ECRI no matter how hard they try to distort the data to pretend otherwise. And even if you think that the WWC's evaluation is accurate, you can't help but notice that the areas that the WWC evaluate, alphabetics, fluency, comprehension and general reading achievement, don't align with the Reading First ECRI which are defined in section 1208 (5) of the Reading First statute as:
explicit and systematic instruction in—
‘‘(A) phonemic awareness;
‘‘(C) vocabulary development;
‘‘(D) reading fluency, including oral reading skills; and
‘‘(E) reading comprehension strategies."
Nice try Edweek.
The only question remaining is when will in-house Edweek blogger extraordinaire, Alexander Russo, report on this scandal going on around him?
Update: Russo falls for the bait. (Fixed some typos too.)