Monday, August 29, 2005

Special Report: Reading First Under Fire

As O'Hanian says, this is, "One of two blockbuster reports, this sounds more and more like ReadingGate:
1. Conspiracy
2. Cover ups
3. Lies and more lies to cover up the conspiracy
4. Top folks in Washington leading the conspiracy and cover ups

Here is the other report.

You must read these to understand how and why all the states that are signing up for reading first are ending up with the same programs. The game has been fixed. Be sure to check out the table showing what the states chose and how many times they applied before then accepted the "correct" programs and finally became accepted. As I have been saying all along, this is more about making money for those with the right political connections than it is about what is best for kids.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The un-empirical presidency -

August 24, 2005 : Print Edition : Editorials, Op-Ed

By Bruce Fuller, BRUCE FULLER is a professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley.

PRESIDENT BUSH'S love affair with the scientific community is awkward at best. The White House science advisor, John H. Marburger III, is on record as saying that "in this administration, science strongly informs policy." But where's the romance for scientists if Bush casts a blind eye over evidence of a human role in global warming or the difference between evolution and intelligent design?

Now the administration's propensity to ignore empirical data threatens the search for effective school reforms. The latest case of science snubbed emerged last week and involves the quiet quashing of new findings on the success of bilingual teaching in the nation's classrooms.

Californians understand how important such research is almost two-fifths of the state's schoolchildren come from non-English speaking homes. And parents and employers everywhere want to know what advances children's reading and language skills. Figuring that out was the charge given, along with 1 million in taxpayer dollars, to Bush's prestigious National Literacy Panel, appointed three years ago.

Panelist Robert Slavin, an education professor at Johns Hopkins University, was asked to review the best-designed experiments, where children were randomly assigned to either bilingual or English-immersion classrooms. The administration, rightfully, wanted to test reforms with the same rigor with which it tests new drugs. Or so it said.

Slavin found that, according to the best data, children's early literacy skills climbed at a faster rate in bilingual classrooms. He wanted to publish his findings immediately; the Education Department said to wait until the panel's full report was done.

"From the perspective of academic freedom, I didn't like the idea of something being held up," Slavin said. He resigned from the panel.

Now the panel's report is finished. Another of its members extended Slavin's research, with the same results: Good bilingual education programs produce faster results than good English-only programs. These findings have been peer-reviewed, but Bush's Education Department won't make the report public.

"They said they weren't going to release it," the panel chairman, University of Illinois psychologist Timothy Shanahan, told me last week...

...Why would the administration sideline its own report? It's possible that the bilingual education results weren't what it wanted to hear. "English only" is a rallying cry in the culture wars, and evidence that works against it also works against such Bush allies as English First, which has lead the charge against bilingual education.

And this wouldn't be the first time the administration has buried inconvenient education data. It was not until the New York Times brought suit and forced the release of a charter school study that we learned that such schools which are mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act in some cases do no better on average than public schools.

And Republicans aren't alone in this game. In 2000, Clinton administration officials tried to recast research I led, which found that many toddlers were entering unhealthy child-care settings in the wake of its welfare reforms.

Scientific evidence alone shouldn't make or break public policy. But as conservative John Locke argued in the 18th century, government must advance objective knowledge so that citizens can reason through remedies to their shared problems. When the government invests in legitimate research, we should not be prevented from hearing the results.

In the mind of the politicians in charge it's obviously not what's best for the kids but what suits the needs of the politicians and their cronies best.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The American Public -- More Informed About NCLB and More Skeptical of Its Strategies; Press Conference Aug. 23 -

8/23/2005 10:01:00 AM

To: National and Assignment Desks, Education Reporter

Contact: Dr. Lowell Rose, 812-320-1835 or, or Molly Andres, 800-766-1156 ext. 2254 or

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 /U.S. Newswire/ -- A nationwide survey released today reports that an increasing number of Americans say they know a fair amount about the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. But the more they know about it, the less they like it. According to the 37th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, the public likes NCLB's goals but rejects the strategies used to implement those goals. The concern rises to the level where, if a large number of schools fail to make the mandated adequate yearly progress, the public is at least as likely to blame the law as it is to blame the school....

<>...When asked about ways to improve the public schools, the public consistently prefers change that comes through the existing school system as compared to seeking an alternative system. The public continues to oppose attendance at private schools at public expense and, while about half support the concept of charter schools, 65 percent stipulate that they not be created at the expense of the regular public schools, and 80 percent think that they should be held accountable in the same way as other schools.

The poll also finds that the public supports the use of growth assessments, believing that schools should be judged on how much students improve in a given year, not on the percentage of students passing the state-mandated test.

Another message for policy makers to heed is that the public makes a distinction between the "nation's schools" and "schools in the community," giving low grades to the former and higher grades to the latter. The strongest support comes from the 69 percent of parents who give an A or a B to the schools their own children attend.

A full report appears in the September 2005 issue of the Phi Delta Kappan and is also available at Contact Dr. Lowell Rose, PDK Poll Director (, 812-320-1835) or Molly Andres, PDK Marketing Director (, 800-766-1156 ext. 2254) for additional information.

More good news!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Local discontent with 'No Child Left Behind' grows -

Andrea Marks, Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 19,

Just as students are heading back to school, frustration with the federal No Child Left Behind education law is hitting new heights at the grass-roots level from Maine to California.

"There is a palpable increase in the level of dissatisfaction that I see, but it's not being translated into legislation in Congress," says Jack Jennings, president and CEO of the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy in Washington. "There's really a disjuncture here between a growing dissatisfaction and the lack of a political response."

Although test scores are going up, they were before NCLB was passed, as well. That's because of state education reforms and testing protocols put into place over the past 25 years. Indeed, there's been no research to determine which reforms get credit for the increasing scores. But many teachers and local legislators credit the earlier state improvements, and they're concerned that NCLB mandates are actually undermining their students' long-term success.

Several US representatives and senators are reportedly working on bills to amend NCLB in the upcoming legislative session, but few education experts believe it will happen before 2007, when the law comes up for reauthorization. But as the calls for change increase on the local level, that may change.

"I think the dissatisfaction will continue to grow," says Reggie Felton, director of federal relations with the National School Boards Association in Alexandria, Va. "That will result in a stronger sense of urgency in congressional districts, which will then result in members of Congress saying, 'We can't wait. We must act now because I'm up for reelection."

And today Connecticut finally has sued. So we continue to wait and see.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Special ed scores don't paint the real picture -

This is an editorial from 8/15 Mobile Register

...No Child Left Behind allows states to use what Alabama calls "alternative achievement standards" to evaluate students with what it considers the "most significant cognitive disabilities." Roughly, those are students whose IQ's are 55 and below, and who may be unable to achieve at grade level even with the best of instruction.

The catch is, if the number of special education students showing proficiency on the alternate tests exceeds 1 percent of the total number of students who passed, some of those special ed scores are arbitrarily deemed to be failing. In other words, even if the kids have done the best that they possibly can on tests they have a chance of passing, some of their scores don't count.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has recently modified the national policy to allow schools to exempt 3 percent of their special ed students from the standardized tests. That's an improvement, but in the Mobile County school system, 13 percent of students are considered special ed.

The special ed provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act need to be modified so that schools aren't set up to fail just because they have a significant number of special ed students enrolled.

In the meantime, parents who have been notified that they can transfer their children from low-performing schools need to take a hard look at why the schools have been rated that way, before deciding whether their children really can get a better education somewhere else.

In my town the only elementary schools to not make AYP were the schools with enough special ed students to count. In other words a school has to have big enough numbers so that the results are what they call "statistically significant." Our schools that do not have many spec. ed. students all made AYP. The editor is right on here. Just another of at least 31 ways that all schools can fail.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Federally funded Reading First called into question -

Well summer is over for me and now maybe I can get back to paying serious attention to this blog. When I finally got around to checking my mail after my vacation I discovered this article in USA Today but noticed right away that Endless Faculty Meeting had already done a good job of reporting on it. So go and check that out.

In the above mentioned USA today article
it was stated"Robert Slavin of the Success for All Foundation a non-profit research group that has developed its own reading materials, requested the investigation in May, saying Reading First officials have discouraged schools from using his materials despite evidence they are effective. He says Reading First relies on the work of 'consultants with major conflicts of interest.''' Then a day or two after, this letter from Susan Harman, principal, Growing Children charter school, Oakland ,appeared in the same paper.

Conflicts of interest in reading program
Congratulations to Robert Slavin of the Success for All Foundation for pointing out that President Bush's Reading First program is riddled with conflicts of interest. And congratulations to USA TODAY for having the courage to print this criticism ("Federally funded Reading First called into question," Life, Monday).

Slavin is right that federal consultants run the committees that review states' plans for buying the very expensive "reading" programs favored by Bush. He left out that some of the same "researchers" also sat on or were contributors to the National Reading Panel that defined "scientific" as those same programs. Conflicts of interest? Yes, sir.

The article says that "Congress is expected to distribute about $6 billion to schools by 2007." Actually, this money doesn't wind up at schools. It quickly passes through them to the few approved publishers, the most prominent of which is McGraw-Hill, run by old Bush family friend Harold McGraw III.

Slavin's complaint comes on the heels of an Aug. 4 request from the highly respected Reading Recovery Council of North America for a formal investigation of the U.S. Department of Education's actions in its implementation of Reading First...

Now I'm not a betting man but if I was I would be willing to bet nothing comes of this. And I'm pretty sure the mainstream media will not pick it up. Too many people with the right connections mare making too much money from this. As I have said before here, NCLB and Reading First with it are not about the kids as much as they are about making money for those people.