NAEP reading scores: Bad news was sadly predictable
Anybody paying attention over the past eight years to the implementation of No Child Left Behind will not be surprised that it failed to do what it was chiefly aimed at accomplishing: Improving reading scores.
Today we learned the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress -- which is known as the “nation’s report card” because it is the only standardized measure that allows us to compare student test performance at different grades nationwide.
It shows, my colleague Nick Anderson writes here, that fourth-grade reading scores stalled after the law took effect in 2002, rose modestly in 2007, then stalled again in 2009.
Eighth-grade scores went up 1 point on a scale of 500 since 2007 but showed no real gain over the seven-year span when NCLB was in high gear.
This was all predictable.
At the heart of NCLB was the Bush administration’s $6 billion “Reading First” initiative, which supported specific approaches to literacy instruction that emphasized explicit phonics instruction and didn’t do enough to foster comprehension. A lot of reading experts warned that the program would fail, but the administration didn’t listen.
So it was no surprise when the Education Department’s own research arm concluded in a 2008 report that kids in schools with the program did no better on tests than those in schools without the program.
But Reading First had more problems than simply being ineffective. The program was mired in allegations of conflicts of interest and mismanagement. Government investigators found that some people who helped oversee the program had financial ties to publishers of Reading First materials that the Education Department advocated that schools use.
Former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who served in the NCLB period, called Reading First one of the “most effective” education programs she had ever seen. I’d hate to see the other ones.
But this isn’t just history.
There is a bill now in Congress called “Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation,” or the LEARN Act, which would devote $2.35 billion to literacy programs from birth to grade 12.
The problem is that it promotes some of the very methods of instruction that were doomed to fail in Reading First.
When are the people who write the laws ever going to learn?
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| March 24, 2010; 11:54 AM ET
Categories: No Child Left Behind, Reading | Tags: NAEP, No Child Left Behind, Reading First
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