Saturday, November 29, 2008

Education Week: No Effect on Comprehension Seen From 'Reading First'

Education Week: No Effect on Comprehension Seen From 'Reading First'
No Effect on Comprehension Seen From 'Reading First'
By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
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The $6 billion funding for the federal Reading First program has helped more students “crack the code” to identify letters and words, but it has not had an impact on reading comprehension among 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders in participating schools, according to one of the largest and most rigorous studies ever undertaken by the U.S. Department of Education.

While more time is spent on reading instruction and professional development in schools that received Reading First grants than in comparison schools, students in participating schools are no more likely to become proficient readers, even after several years with the extended instruction, the study found.

Among both the Reading First and comparison groups, reading achievement was low, with fewer than half of 1st graders, and fewer than 40 percent of 2nd and 3rd graders showing grade-level proficiency in their understanding of what they read. On a basic decoding test, however, 1st graders in Reading First schools scored significantly better than their peers in the comparison schools.

The final report of the Reading First Impact Study, released today by the Institute of Education Sciences, is part of the $40 million evaluation process for the program, which was rolled out in 2002 as part of the No Child Left Behind Act.

“Advocates for the program will be pleased that it’s shown a positive correlation on [improved] decoding skills ... the focus of the program,” said Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, the outgoing director of the institute, the Education Department’s research arm. “I don’t think anyone should be celebrating the fact that the federal government invested $6 billion in a reading program that has shown no effects on reading comprehension.”
Curriculum Matters: Evolution Debate Under Way in Texas
Evolution Debate Under Way in Texas

The Texas board of education is the latest state entity to begin debating the status of evolution in the state's science academic standards.

To provide a quick overview: The current version of Texas' science standards calls for students to understand the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories. That language irks scientists, who see it as a way of falsely implying that evolution is riddled with flaws, as opposed to being one of the best-established principles in science. A draft produced by an expert committee recommended dropping that language, as part of a broader reworking of the standards. Then Texas' board of education appointed a separate, six-member panel to review that document (see their comments in the link above), some of whose members were critical of the first draft and recommended changes. Some scientists are worried that those appointees are interested in seeing evolution presented in a more critical light.