October 16, 2006

Former Staffer Rips Washington Post's Coverage of Reading First Coverage

Robert W. Sweet, Jr, former congressional staff member for the Reading First law, rips the Washington Post a new a-hole for their coverage of the Reading First "scandal."

Here's a letter to the Washington Post's ombudsman pointing out fifteen errors in the WP article. A more detailed analysis of each point is provided here.

This is just as much an indictment of the flimsy OIG report as it is of the WP's shoddy reporting. The OIG report just does not stand up to close scrutiny. For example, the OIG report implied that DoE showed favoritism to the publisher of DI programs, SRA McGraw-Hill, yet the initial complaint filed by Success For All, indicated that both SfA and DI were being unfairly excluded from Reading First funding:

The IG report also referred to what might be called favoritism toward Reading Mastery. Reading Mastery has a strong experimental peer-reviewed research base demonstrating its efficacy, as described below, with wording taken from the complaint from the Success for All Foundation to the IG that triggered the IG investigation:

"“In particular, two programs have suffered under Reading First: Our own non-profit Success for All program and Direct Instruction."… These are by far the most extensively and successfully evaluated of all reading programs"…. A 2003 article in the Review of Educational Research by Borman, Hewes, Overman, & Brown identified 40 experimental-control studies of Direct Instruction, of which 38 were third party (also see Adams & Engelmann, 1996). Many of these studies of both programs were published in the most selective journals in education. Published reviews by Herman (1999), Traub (1999), and others have also concluded that Success for All and Direct Instruction have solid, replicated evidence of effectiveness."
And here's the funny part (not funny "ha ha" either). The OIG report also alleges that DoE improperly discriminated against a whole language program from Wright Group, but Wright Group is also owned by SRA McGraw-Hill:
However, the same vendor, SRA/McGraw Hill, publishes Reading Mastery (a program with a high rating on sbrr) and The Wright Group program (the program with a low rating on sbrr). If SRA/McGraw Hill were a favored vendor, The Wright Group program would have been approved.
A textbook example of trying to have your cake and eat it too.

The OIG report is replete with this kind of internal logical inconsistencies. At best, the OIG conducted a superficial investigation and proceeded to cobble together its report with little regard to the underlying Reading First law. It performed a very superficial analysis on a very complex situation and managed to get most of it wrong. Not unsurprisingly, our dopey journalists, like those at the Washington Post, failed to get the story right too.

As they say, read the whole thing.

1 comment:

Teacher said...

I teach in a Reading First school. It's a nightmare. We all want it out. Of course, we're a white school in a wealthy city in the Finger Lakes region, and Reading First is meant for low-income, minority schools with underqualified teachers. Middle class kids read better than impoverished kids because they have better language abilities and skills. Bingo. That's all reading is. I teach reading to Special Ed. kids, and I have a Masters in literacy as well. The trick? There isn't any. Teaching reading is pretty simple, but you have to do it on a kid by kid basis. Some need explicit phonics like SFA, but most don't. I'm right about this, and since most reading professionals back me up, I sleep comfortably at night ignoring Reading First.