Bush Scandals List

346. No Child Left Behind’s Reading First boondoggle

Reading First is a centerpiece of George Bush’s No Child Left Behind program and $6 billion has been spent on it. Its purpose was to increase children’s understanding of what they read in grades 1-3.

A June 22, 2006 report of the Education Department’s Inspector General found rampant mismanagement and conflicts of interest. 16 panels had been set up to review applications for funding by states. These were supposed to be balanced with members from 4 designated groups (the Department of Education being but one of these). However, 15 of the 16 panels had majorities drawn from Department of Education nominees. 7 of them were made up only of them. It just happened that these panels favored one commercial product McGraw-Hill’s Direct Instruction/Reading Mastery. It also just happened that members of these panels and the Reading First program had business and academic ties to Direct Instruction.

Before coming to Reading First, then Director Chris Doherty had been responsible for bringing Direct Instruction to Baltimore schools in 1996. As Director, he was asked about stacking the review panels, he replied, “Stack the panel?’…I have never *heard* of such a thing….<harumph, harumph>”  In an email discussing another product, Doherty wrote, “They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the [expletive deleted] out of them.” He also referred to them as “dirtbags”.

Despite its problems, Reading First was touted as a good program which improved the comprehension of young readers. Until now. An Institute of Education Sciences report released May 1, 2008 found “Reading First did not have statistically significant impacts on student reading comprehension test scores in grades 1-3.” I’m guessing that while Reading First didn’t help anyone, the $6 billion it cost did.

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