I Didn’t Know … Reading First Grant Audit

In the post “Audit Faults Wisconsin’s Reading First Grant Process” the author, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, in Education Week wrote, “There is also no explanation of the decision by officials in the Madison school district to give back its $2 million grant shortly after it was approved. Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater decided to drop out of the program after federal consultants told district officials they would have to abandon their existing literacy initiative and adopt a commercially published core reading program, he wrote in a detailed memo to the school board. (“States Report Reading First Yielding Gains,” June 8, 2005.)”
I thought MMSD, per the Superintendent, did not continue the process rather than turned down an approved $2 million grant, because he felt the District was being pressured into a curriculum that did not support what was currently underway in the District, and the Superintendent felt the District’s curricula was better for Madison’s kids.
Does anyone remember the process? Was the School Board involved?
I’m sick to my stomach about the Dept. of Education’s administration of the Reading First grant dollars. Does anyone know if children’s reading achievement has improved due to Reading First?

2 thoughts on “I Didn’t Know … Reading First Grant Audit”

  1. Barb,
    The superintendent unilaterally made the decision on rejecting funds from Reading First.
    Bill Keys, then board president, refused to let the board discuss the issue.
    You can get some background here:
    And here:
    And here:
    It’s a prime example of how the superintendent manages the district to minimize outside input, including input from the board and reading expertise from outside of the Doyle Buidling.

  2. Yes, Keys’ and the rest of the board refused Ruth’s request for a public hearing on the Administration decision. Key’s position, besides “this is the decision of the experts, and the Board must not interfere”, was the $2M that MMSD would get is just a passthru of the $2M to particular publishing companies.
    As the General Inspector’ report shows, and which is obvious from the all the communications between the Reading First folks at U of Oregon (Simons, etc?), Keys’ comments were correct, however, that is not the same as saying that Reading First would not have been better for some of the kids than Reading Recovery.
    Having read more information about Reading Recovery, but not yet reviewed their research directly, the effectiveness of Reading Recovery is suspect.
    One of the valid criticisms of RR is that the research does not follow even basic scientific protocols: research only by RR proponents, no independent research, biased sampling, no control groups, RR teachers assess the effectiveness themselves.
    However, to my chagrin, the same can be said of much of educational “research”, including DI, and Reading First — the “research” is performed and interpreted by proponents.
    Thus, I have no reason to believe any of the research on reading instruction.
    BTW, some preliminary reading on the value of phonetics makes me question that research also. That is, success of phonetics is not because of phonetics per se, but the value of detailed focus of those components of reading.
    That is, for non-phonetic written languages such as Chinese, Korean, Japanese, kids learn seem to learn to read by detailed education by practicing writing, not pronunciation.
    “Cognates in the various Chinese languages/dialects which have the same or similar meaning but different pronunciations are written with the same character. In addition, many characters were adopted according to their meaning by the Japanese and Korean languages to represent native words, disregarding pronunciation altogether. The loose relationship between phonetics and characters has thus made it possible for them to be used to write very different and probably unrelated languages.”
    That is, the characters mean the same in Chinese, Japanese and Korean, but their pronunciations differ. This is not true for phonetic languages such as Spanish, German, Italian, and lesser for languages like English.
    How do regional dialects fit in to phonetics? Coming from southern Indiana, where the language spoken is Hoosier, “tower”, “tire”, “tar” are pronounced “tar”, “fire”, “fur”, “far” are pronounced “far”, and “marry”, “Mary”, “merry” are pronounced the same, how would phonetics fit? :>)

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