One anonymous teacher who is quoted in my book, claims that her district is not using DIBELS because administrators and teachers want to use it or because it gives helpful information, because it doesn’t, she claims. “We’re using it because Reading First requires it,” she says. “Some schools are posting fluency scores of children … and then the students have race cars, in the form of bulletin boards, where they are trying to race to the speed goal. On the phoneme segmentation part, some kindergarten classrooms have been known to drill and practice the segmentation while kids are in line waiting for the restroom.”

DIBELS is not just an early literacy test. Teachers are required to group learners and build instruction around the scores. They’re evaluated on the DIBELS scores their pupils achieve. Publishers are tailoring programs to DIBELS. And academic and life decisions for children, starting in kindergarten, are being made according to DIBELS scores.

I believe this period in American education will be characterized as the pedagogy of the absurd. Roland Good, a DIBELS developer, told the U.S. House of Representatives’ Education Committee during a hearing last April that three million children are tested with DIBELS at least three times a year from kindergarten through third grade. New Mexico provides every teacher with a DIBELS Palm Pilot so the pupils’ scores can be sent directly to Oregon for processing.

Kentucky’s associate education commissioner testified at the hearing that the state’s Reading First proposal was rejected repeatedly until they agreed to use DIBELS. The DOE inspector general cited conflicts of interest by Good and his Oregon colleagues in promoting DIBELS.

Another teacher, quoted in my book, claims that while the DIBELS test is used throughout the school year, any child who receives the label “Needs Extensive Intervention” as a result of the first testing must be monitored with a “fluency passage” every other week.

No test of any kind for any purpose has ever had this kind of status. In my book, I analyzed each of the subtests in depth. Here are my conclusions:

•   DIBELS reduces reading to a few components that can be tested in one minute. Tests of naming letters or sounding out nonsense syllables are not tests of reading. Only the misnamed Reading Fluency test involves reading a meaningful text, and that is scored by the number of words read correctly in one minute.

•   DIBELS does not test what it says it tests. Each test reduces what it claims to test to an aspect tested in one minute.

•   What DIBELS does, it does poorly, even viewed from its own criteria. Items are poorly constructed and inaccuracies are common.

•   DIBELS cannot be scored consistently. The tester must time responses (three seconds on a stopwatch), mark a score sheet, and listen to the student, whose dialect may be different from the tester, all at the same time.

•   DIBELS does not test the reading quality. No test evaluates what the reader comprehends. Even the “retelling fluency test” is scored by counting the words used in a retelling.

•   The focus on improving performance on DIBELS is likely to contribute little or nothing to reading development and could actually interfere. It just has children do everything fast.

•   DIBELS misrepresents pupil abilities. Children who already comprehend print are undervalued, and those who race through each test with no comprehension are overrated.

•   DIBELS demeans teachers. It must be used invariantly. It leaves no place for teacher judgment or experience.

•   DIBELS is a set of silly little tests. It is so bad in so many ways that it could not pass review for adoption in any state or district without political coercion. Little can be learned about something as complicated as reading development in one-minute tests.

Pedagogy of the Absurd
I believe this period in American education will be characterized as the pedagogy of the absurd. Nothing better illustrates this than DIBELS. It never gets close to measuring what reading is really about-making sense of print. It is absurd that self-serving bureaucrats in Washington have forced it on millions of children. It is absurd that scores on these silly little tests are used to judge schools, teachers and children. It is absurd that use of DIBELS can label a child a failure the first week of kindergarten. And it is a tragedy that life decisions are being made for 5- and 6-year-olds on the basis of such absurd criteria.

Two scandals involving our government and the young people of this country broke in the last few weeks. One involved the internet antics of an important Republican Congressman with current and former Congressional pages. His indiscretions shocked the nation, have brought suspicion on the House Republican hierarchy who appear to have covered up for him, and may well effect the mid-year elections. The second scandal involved millions of children in schools throughout the country. Yet, after a few newspaper reports and an occasional mild editorial, there have been no noticeable repercussions

I’m talking about the amazing report of the US Department of Education Office of Inspector General involving the Reading First portion of the No Child Left Behind. The OIG found that the DOE personnel:

  1. deliberately obscured the requirements of NCLB
  2. imposed conditions on the states which are not in the act, 
  3. were totally indifferent to blatant conflicts of interest of persons appointed to panels reviewing state proposals, 
  4. ignored the law in illegally constituting review panels
  5. and interfered in the selection of curricula, texts and tests by states and school districts illegally, according the provisions of NCLB itself and the Department of Education Authorizing Act (1979).

That sounds a lot more damaging to a lot more kids than what the reprehensible representative did. When George Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Work Force expressed his outrage and called for immediate hearings in the House, the Republican leadership said no. 

NCLB, including Reading First, is a major program of the Bush administration which had bipartisan support not only from Miller but from Senator Kennedy as well. School administrators know that Reading First has been a disaster for schools in every part of every state.

State and local schools administrators have been caught in the middle between the bureaucrats in the DOE and parents, students and teachers, forced to enforce absurd programs like Direct Instruction Reading and DIBELS and to defend them as “scientifically based”. Now the ugly truth is revealed: those who authored and profited from these programs were illegally employed to review state proposals and insist on including these absurdities as a condition of approving them.

Chris Doherty, the Reading First Director is the chosen fall-guy. It’s already been announced he is leaving DOE . His only original qualification for the job is that he directed an unssuccessful Direct Instruction program in Baltimore. His assistant Sandi Jacobs has ben transferred to another job. The OIG report contains emails between Doherty and Ed Kame’enui (mentioned as having conflicts of interest}, and others boasting about how they were pushing some programs on states while harpooning others. While not as salacious as Foley’s emails they are much clearly illegal. Doherty even boasts he forced school districts in a number of states to drop blacklisted programs after their state proposals had already been approved.. Rigby and Reading Recovery are mentioned by name in the emails.

The OIG report has asked for the review of all state Reading First contracts with DOE. There is little doubt that there is a basis in what has already been revealed to declare them all illegal according to the NCLB law itself and the law establishing the DOE.

So why isn’t this scandal causing the repercussions that the Foley missteps have caused? Why did TV news virtually ignore it? With NCLB up for renewal for another 7 year sequence in the next Congress, why isn’t this becoming a major issue in the mid-term elections?

Maybe it’s because some very powerful interests have put a lid on it. Maybe the Reading First scandal has the potential for being a lot more embarrassing for some very important people than Foley’s Follies.

Today’s parents of five year olds are hearing a new answer to the age old question, “What did you do in school today? “I got DIBELed.” Within a few days of entering kindergarten, hundreds of thousands of five year olds are given their first opportunity to taste failure in their ability to say the names of letters in three seconds, say the sound that a picture name begins with in three seconds, and sound out three letter words in three seconds. And if they can’t get enough letters named, initial sounds made, or words sounded in one minute in each DIBELS sub-test then they have failed and are thus in need of intensive instruction even though they just started kindergarten. From then on they will be DIBELed three times during each year through third grade and sometimes beyond. By mid-year in kindergarten the children also must sound out a page of nonsense syllables. 

DIBELS reduces reading to a set of one-minute tests of reading “skills.” Many five year olds are simply overwhelmed by being escorted to an unfamiliar place in the school where a stranger with a stop watch rushes them through a series of tasks and stops them before they have had any chance to figure out what is happening.  

DIBELS takes over the lives of primary children and determines their school future. It becomes the curriculum. In a half-day kindergarten five year olds will get little more than DIBELing in school. Ironically, there’s little time for reading and even less time for writing. And all over America children are being retained in Kindergarten or first grade on the basis of their DIBELS scores. Some teachers have a bulletin board with nonsense words for the children to practice reading nonsense. Children practice for DIBELS while waiting in line to use the toilet.  

With their commitment to testing what a child can do rapidly and accurately in one minute, DIBELS authors reduce reading to a series of tasks that measures something less than what the name of each implies. The tests are Letter Naming, Initial Sound, Phonemic Segmentation , Nonsense Words , Oral Reading. The last is the only test that has the child read a real passage. The score is the number of words read correctly in one minute. Children learn in repeated testing and practice to say as many words as they can quickly and not worry about the meaning. There is also a Retelling, added according to the DIBELS manual when teachers worried that the oral reading score didn’t show comprehension. The score is the number of words the child used in the retelling. In this test there is no concern for the quality of the retelling.

The authors also added an oral Word Use test that involves no reading..The child is asked to “use” a word. The score is the number of words used in using the word.  

The authors require what they call “fluency” in each sub-test. The child must be fast and accurate whether naming letters, abstracting initial sounds, breaking words into sounds, saying nonsense words, reading oral passages, retelling the text, or using words orally. It’s hard to see what how fast a child can name letters has to do with making sense of print.  

In none of the DIBELS one minute tests is there any measure of the quality of the reading: No score shows comprehension. 

To summarize: DIBELS is a set of silly little, one minute tests so poorly thought through and constructed that they would be unlikely to pass the review of any school, district or state committee. Education Week has said that there are widespread beliefs among local and state authorities that they could not receive No Child Left Behind funds unless they adopted DIBELS. (Education Week, Sept. 7, 2005.) 

No child should suffer what millions are suffering from DIBELS. And no parent or teacher should be party to DIBELing the enthusiasm for school out of children for the sake of the meaningless bench marks that are replacing learning to read in too many American schools.

The following opinion column from the October issue of District Administration Magazine caused the owner (and Editor-in-Chief) of the magazine to publish an apology in the very next issue. The mea culpa was published before any reader or advertiser complained. None did. This column never appeared on the magazine’s web site, so it is published here.

In August 2004, District Administration Magazine published my critique of Senator John Kerry’s education plan. It may be read here.

In other words, the following fact-checked article was deemed unfair when an article critical of the political opponent two months earlier was fair game.

I remain incredibly proud of this article because it was timely, witty and predicted the ultimate disaster caused by the policies I criticized.

Gary Stager on Direct Instruction
Perhaps it’s time to end political social promotion
From the October 2004 issue of District Administration Magazine

Michael Moore got it wrong.

In his film, Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore shows President Bush in a Florida classroom on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The film’s narration said that while America was being attacked, the president read the book, My Pet Goat, to a room full of young children. This is factually inaccurate in three important ways.

  1. The story is actually titled, The Pet Goat.
  2. It is not a book, but an exercise in a heavily scripted basal.
  3. The president did not read the story to the children.

Any perceptive educator watching this would quickly realize what was going on. The president was not in that Bush Reading on 9/11classroom to demonstrate his love of reading. Being read to is a powerful literacy experience. Having a wonderful story read to you by the president of the United States could create a memory to last a lifetime.

Unlike his wife, mother and Oval Office predecessors, this president had a more important agenda than demonstrating affection for children or for reading. The trip was part of a calculated campaign to sell No Child Left Behind. In what Michael Moore rightly observed as a photo opportunity, young children were used as props to advance the administration’s radical attack on public education.

The Pet Goat is an exercise from a literary classic called, Reading Mastery 2, by the father of Direct Instruction, Siegfried (Zig) Engelmann. In the 1960s, Engelmann invented a controversial pedagogical approach that reduces knowledge to bite-]sized chunks presented in a prescribed sequence enforced by a scripted lesson the teacher is to recite to a classroom of pupils chanting predetermined responses. Every single word the teacher is to utter, including permissible and prohibited words of encouragement, are provided. There is no room for individuality. The Direct Instruction Web site states, “The popular valuing of teacher creativity and autonomy as high priorities must give way to a willingness to follow certain carefully prescribed instructional practices.”

Engelmann told The New Yorker in its July 26, 2004 issue, “We don’t give a damn what the teacher thinks, what the teacher feels. On the teachers’ own time they can hate it. We don’t care, as long as they do it. Traditionalists die over this, but in terms of data we whump the daylights out of them.” It is easy to see how a man of such sensitive temperament could author more than 1,000 literary masterpieces such as The Pet Goat.

While I am sure the Florida school visited is a fine one and the classroom teacher loves children, educational excellence was not being celebrated. This was a party on behalf of Direct Instruction. While Moore made a documentary [some suggest artful propaganda] about the Iraq war, he could have made a movie about the United States government’s ideological attack on the public schools.

The War on Public Education
Engelmann’s publisher is a textbook giant with ties to the Bush family dating back to the 1930s. Company namesakes served on George W. Bush’s transition team and the board of his mother’s literacy foundation. The publishers have received honors from two Bush administrations and they in turn have bestowed awards on Secretary Rod Paige, who then keynoted their business conference. The same company’s former executive vice president is the new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Direct instruction has become synonymous with the “scientifically based methods” required by No Child Left Behind.

The War on Public Education has ratcheted up parental fear with cleverly designed rhetoric of failing schools, data desegregation, underperforming students, unqualified teachers and clever slogans like, “no excuses.” If you turn public schools, even the best ones, into single-]minded test-]prep factories where teachers drone on from scripted lessons then more people will want that magical voucher. Repeatedly demonize teachers arid the public will lose confidence regardless of their personal experiences with their local school.

So, how are you doing? Is your job now more about compliance than kids? Are sound educational experiences being sacrificed for test­ preparation? Has fear replaced joy in your classrooms? President Reagan might suggest we ask ourselves, “Is your school better off than it was four years ago?”

Originally published on Wednesday, October 04, 2006 in The Pulse: Education’s Place for Debate

Aside from reducing teachers to script-reading robots and reading to an onerous task, the Federal government’s controversial $4.8 billion Reading First program has been accused of numerous improprieties by the Inspector General of the Department of Education. The scathing report, The Reading First Program’s Grant Application Process – Final Inspection Report, was released on Friday (June 22), employing a common tactic used in the hopes that bad news will escape the public’s attention over the weekend. This is a news story that should not be ignored.

Back in October 2004 I wrote that there was something fishy about McGraw-Hill’s Direct Instruction/Reading Mastery program and the administration’s fondness for it. The Director General’s report details how the Department of Education and Reading First administrators used their influence to benefit the commercial product, Direct Instruction. According to the New York Times, one of the whistle blowers leading to this investigation was Robert Slavin, the creator and director of Success for All, a product many educators find quite similar to Direct Instruction. Slavin told the New York Times, “The department has said at least 10,000 times that they had no favored reading programs, and this report provides clear evidence that they were very aggressively pressing districts to use certain programs and not use others.”

The Inspector General’s report illuminates the corruption involved in the Federal Government’s attempts to micro-manage reading instruction. This should justify caution and vigilance as the President appoints a National Mathematics Advisory Panel that promises to do for mathematics what was done to reading. The report suggests a cozy relationship between the Department of Education and “expert review panels.”

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is spinning the report as ancient history predating her tenure in the position although she was an architect of No Child Left Behind. Reading First was a cornerstone of NCLB.

The report found that the Department of Education

  • Developed an application package that obscured the requirements of the statute;

  • Took action with respect to the expert review panel process that was contrary to the balanced panel composition envisioned by Congress;

  • Intervened to release an assessment review document without the permission of the entity that contracted for its development;

  • Intervened to influence a State’s selection of reading programs;

  • Intervened to influence reading programs being used by local educational agencies (LEAs) after the application process was completed.

The report states, “These actions demonstrate that the program officials failed to maintain a control environment that exemplifies management integrity and accountability.”

My summary of this complex report is already too long, but there are countless reasons for concern. You can read the full report of the Inspector General (http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/aireports/i13f0017.pdf)

I would like to call attention to four major issues that should alarm educators and taxpayers alike.

Issue 1) Reading First Favored One Curriculum Product Over All Others

Numerous states had their applications for millions of dollars worth of Reading First grants rejected because they did not plan to use the funds for Direct Instruction. The report also says that states received little if any guidance on why their proposals were rejected. This caused state officials to waste time and resources chasing funding based on elusive criteria

Issue 2) Conflicts of Interest

The No Child Left Behind legislation mandated that a National Expert Review Panel be appointed to review scientifically-based reading materials eligible for Reading First funding. The Inspector General’s Report found that makeup of the panels was inconsistent with the goals of the law authorizing the panels.

The Department Took Action With Respect to the Expert Review Panel Process That Was Contrary to the Balanced Panel Composition Envisioned by Congress

Section 1203(c)(2)(A) states that the Secretary, in consultation with the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL), shall convene a panel to evaluate applications and that, at a minimum, the panel shall include: three individuals selected by the Secretary, three individuals selected by NIFL, three individuals selected by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and three individuals selected by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). We have determined that each of the four organizations nominated at least three individuals to serve on the expert review panel; however, the Department failed to ensure that each State application was reviewed by a properly constituted panel.

Section 1203(c)(2)(C) requires a panel to recommend grant applications to the Secretary for funding or for disapproval. After selecting the panelists, the Department created subpanels made up of five panelists each to review the State applications and recommend either approval or disapproval to the Secretary. None of the subpanels possessed adequate representation from each of the organizations identified under Section 1203(c)(2)(A) of the Act.

The Department created a total of 16 subpanels to review the State applications. A majority of the panelists were nominated by the Department for 15 of the 16 subpanels; and 7 of the 16 subpanels consisted entirely of Department-selected panelists. None of the subpanels included a representative from each of the nominating organizations and there is no indication that the subpanels ever met as one large panel to review the State applications and/or recommend approval or disapproval to the Secretary.

If your eyes glazed over by the official mumbo jumbo above, check out this statement from the Inspector General’s report.

…15 of the 16 subpanels had a majority of Department-nominated panelists and none had the balanced composition envisioned by Congress.

Members of the National Expert Review Panels and Reading First staffers had commercial or academic ties to Direct Instruction. These conflicts rose all the way up the Department of Education to then Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, who won an award from McGraw-Hill for his role in the now largely discredited “Houston Miracle” – the basis for No Child Left Behind.

The Reading First Director took direct action to ensure that a particular approach to reading instruction was represented on the expert review panel. Direct Instruction (DI) is a model for teaching that requires the use of Reading Mastery, a program published by SRA/McGraw-Hill, to teach reading. The Reading First Director formerly served as the Executive Director of the Baltimore Curriculum Project, which has implemented DI in Baltimore City schools since 1996. The Reading First Director personally nominated three individuals who had significant professional connections to DI to serve on the expert review panel.

When asked about potential conflicts of interest and ideological blindness, Reading First officials reacted sarcastically with contempt for Congress and the public.

A Department employee reported to the Reading First Director that the Department had received a question from a member of the media about the panel composition. The response by the Reading First Director suggests that he may indeed have intended to “stack” the expert review panel. The employee stated: “The question is…are we going to ‘stack the panel’ so programs like Reading Recovery don’t get a fair shake[?]” The Reading First Director responded, “‘Stack the panel?’…I have never *heard* of such a thing….<harumph, harumph>[.]”

Doherty responded wrote in a 2002 email. “You know the line from Casablanca, ‘I am SHOCKED that there is gambling going on in this establishment!’ Well, ‘I am SHOCKED that there are pro-DI people on this panel!'”

Issue 3) Ideology Trumps Science and Good Public Policy

The Inspector General’s report documents how the Department of Education and the review panels manipulated the law to support Direct Instruction at the expense of competing programs. Reading Recovery, an remedial intervention strategy employed by schools across the globe, was a particular target of Reading First.

The Assistant Secretary for OESE planned for the Reading First Guidance to include language that was not in the statute and exclude language that was in the statute. After reviewing a revision to the Department’s draft of the Reading First Guidance, the Assistant Secretary for OESE wrote to the Reading First Director, “under reading first plan. i’d like not to say ‘this must include early intervention and reading remediation materials’ which i think could be read as ‘reading recovery’ [a reading program]. even if it says this in the law, i’d like it taken out.”

A few days before the Department publicly announced the panelists it had chosen to serve, one of the Department-nominated panelists contacted the Reading First Director and shared his strong bias against Reading Recovery and his strategy for responding to any State that planned to include Reading Recovery in its application. The Reading First Director responded: “I really like the way you’re viewing/approaching this, and not just because it matches my own approach :-), I swear!” This individual later served as the panel chair for the subpanel that reviewed Wisconsin’s State application and in response to the State’s plans to use Reading Recovery, he included an 11-page negative review of Reading Recovery in his official comments on the application.

The Inspector General’s report includes an email from Reading First Director, Chris Doherty in which he makes his motives and temperament perfectly clear.

“They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the [expletive deleted] out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags.”

Reading Recovery was not the only approach or curricular product to endure the wrath of Reading First officials. Reading First attacked any curriculum product or pedagogical approach determined to have a whiff of “whole language”.

The Department Intervened to Influence Reading Programs Being Used by LEAs After the Application Process Was Completed

After certain States completed the application process and received funding, the Reading First Director became aware that certain LEAs in these States were using the Rigby Literacy (Rigby) and Wright Group Literacy (Wright Group) programs. The Reading First Director worked closely with a Department staff member, a former expert review panelist, who undertook a review of both of these programs.

In e-mail correspondence with the staff member regarding the Wright Group, the Reading First Director stated:

Beat the [expletive deleted] out of them in a way that will stand up to any level of legal and [whole language] apologist scrutiny. Hit them over and over with definitive evidence that they are not SBRR, never have been and never will be. They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the [expletive deleted] out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags.

The Reading First Director forwarded the above e-mail to Lyon and stated:

Confidential FYI. Pardon in-house language I use…with fellow team members and friends. Do you know—on the QT—if anyone has done any good review of the Wright Group stuff, to date? We have beaten Maine on Rigby and this is cut from the same cloth. We are proceeding, of course, but if you knew of a good piece of work dissecting The Wright Group’s stuff, it could further strengthen our hand.

Lyon responded that he would obtain this information and added, “I like your style.” In response, the Reading First Director stated, “Additional firepower…may help us make this a one-punch fight.”

After reviewing the programs, the staff member provided the Reading First Director with notes and talking points critiquing these programs. The Reading First Director used this information to convince States using Rigby and Wright Group to change programs. In an e-mail to Lyon, the Reading First Director wrote, “I spoke to Fred Carrigg [the former New Jersey Director of Reading First]…with a roomful of others on their end and they are HALTING the funding of Rigby and, while we were at it, Wright Group. They STOPPED the districts who wanted to use those programs.”

In a later e-mail to Lyon, the Reading First Director stated:

As you may remember, RF got Maine to UNDO its already-made decision to have Rigby be one of their two approved core programs (Ha, ha – Rigby as a CORE program? When pigs fly!) We also as you may recall, got NJ [New Jersey] to stop its districts from using Rigby (and the Wright Group, btw) and are doing the same in Mississippi. This is for your FYI, as I think this program-bashing is best done off or under the major radar screens.

In a formal letter to Carrigg, the Reading First Director did not specifically name Rigby and Wright Group as not being aligned with SBRR (scientifically-based reading research). The Reading First Director wrote, “It appeared that New Jersey had not fulfilled its responsibility to ensure that all LEAs and schools selected to participate in Reading First…would implement comprehensive reading programs that are fully aligned with scientifically based reading research.” The Reading First Director informed us that he could not definitively say why he did not formally state in the letter that those specific programs were not in line with SBRR.

Issue 4) Bias equals dissent?

The Inspector General’s reports how Reid Lyon, one of the architects of No Child Left Behind and Reading First, viewed dissent. People who disagreed with his agenda were accused of bias, ridiculed and intimidated.

Around the same time, Reid Lyon, the former Chief of the Child Development & Behavior Branch at the NICHD, advised the Reading First Director, the Assistant Secretary for OESE, and the Senior Advisor to the Secretary at the time that one of the panelists had been “actively working to undermine the NRP [National Reading Panel] Report and the RF initiatives.” Lyon further stated, “Chances are that other reviewers can trump any bias on her part.” In a written response to all of the people involved, the former Senior Advisor to the Secretary stated, “We can’t un-invite her. Just make sure she is on a panel with one of our barracuda types.”

The apparent intent of the Reading First Director to include and to give a significant role to panelists who reflected his personal preference in reading programs; his specific encouragement to a panelist who held views similar to his on Reading Recovery; and the intention of the former Senior Advisor to the Secretary to control another panelist raise significant questions about the control environment in which the program was being managed.

How is ignoring competing views part of the “scientific method” Lyon and his colleagues require as the basis for all educational practice?

The Executive Summary of the Inspector General’s report describes the following findings about Reading First.

FINDING 1A – The Department Did Not Select the Expert Review Panel in Compliance With the Requirements of NCLB

FINDING 1B – While Not Required to Screen for Conflicts of Interest, the Screening Process the Department Created Was Not Effective

FINDING 2A – The Department Replaced What the Law Intended to be a Peer Review Process With its Own Process

FINDING 2B – The Department Awarded Grants to States Without Documentation That the Subpanels Approved All Criteria

FINDING 3 – The Department Included Requirements in the Criteria Used by the Expert Review Panels That Were Not Specifically Addressed in NCLB

FINDING 4 – In Implementing the Reading First Program, Department Officials Obscured the Statutory Requirements of the ESEA; Acted in Contravention of the GAO Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government; and Took Actions That Call Into Question Whether They Violated the Prohibitions Included in the DEOA

The Pulse will continue to follow this important story. We will report on what happens to Reading First money already in the pipeline and if government officials are held accountable for their actions. Our teachers, students and taxpayers deserve no less.


For further study:

The Schools Matter blog, while representing a particular point-of-view, offers extensive coverage and analysis of the Reading First scandal.

Susan Ohanian reported (in 2005) on the original concerns that led to the Inspector General’s investigation. Read Special Report: Reading First Under Fire: IG Targets Conflicts of Interest, Limits on Local Control.

Look for news stories involving:

  • Reid Lyon, former Chief, Child Development and Behavior Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, who infamously proclaimed, “If there was any piece of legislation that I could pass it would be to blow up colleges of education.”

  • Chris Doherty, former Director of Reading First, who recently resigned

  • Douglas Carnine, one of the major proponents of DIBELs and a person involved in assisting Reid Lyon in assembling the Reading First panels discussed in the Director General’s report. Two of his colleagues from the University of Oregon were on the review panel. Carnine consults with the Department of Education and Congress on a remarkable range of topics and with great frequency.

  • Rod Paige, former Secretary of Education



Gary Stager, currently teaching, consulting and speaking in Australia, is Editor of The Pulse and Editor-At-Large for District Administration Magazine. His personal web site is www.stager.org

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and not the views of The Pulse, District Administration Magazine or Professional Media Group.