The Feds implemented Reading First to force educators to adopt Reading Programs based on scientific research. The Feds offered educators lots of grant money provided they adopt reading programs that were consistent with the research on reading. To effect Reading First, the feds:
sponsored three major reading academies, the Secretary’s Reading Leadership Academies (RLAs). The RLAs were held in Washington, D.C., in January and February 2002, and hosted policymakers and key education leaders from every state and territory in the nation. The academies were designed to help state leaders gear up for the implementation of Reading First, the Department’s program to improve the quality of reading instruction in kindergarten through third grade.The RLA's included a session entitled “Theory to Practice: A Panel of Practitioners.” in which:
The speakers discussed how implementing a scientifically based reading program had brought about great improvements in the reading skills of their kindergarten through third grade students.
The a majority of the panel consisted of principals who had implemented either the Direct Instruction (DI) reading program or the Open Court reading program, two of only three programs that have been research validated.
After the RLA sessions the "policymakers and key education leaders from every state and territory in the nation" had an opportunity to comment on the RLA sessions by filling out evaluation forms.
Normally, such evaluation forms are maintained in confidence and I suspect that the attendees never expected that their comments would come to light. But then a little thing happened on the way to the teachers' lounge ....
The Department of Education's internal auditing department, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audited the Reading First program. (I'll have a post on the merits of this latest OIG audit in an upcoming post (quick take: it is laughable).) As part of that audit, they reviewed the evaluation forms submitted by the policymakers and key education leaders from every state and territory in the nation. And now as part of the OIG's Final Audit Report February 2007 you can see some of their comments in all their glory. See pages 25-39.
A few points immediately jump out. Many of these policymakers and key educators:
1. have not accepted the reading research and are not willing to abandon their beloved whole language programs.
2. were a hostile audience.
3. intensely hate DI and open court, i.e., the reading programs that have been validated by reading research.
4. were conspiring behind the scenes to give the impression that DoE was trying to force them to adopt specific curricula.
5. Know all the cliches very well.
These are THE state level policy makers and education leaders, not a bunch of powerless teachers or academic ideologues. These are the people who make the education policy in your state. From, these comments, it is clear that they won't be abandoning their beloved whole language anytime soon. At least not willingly.
And the research for reading is much further advanced than it is for math. Consider this a preview of the math wars five years hence.