As the Dept. of Education (ED) notes on its website, Reading First is the “academic cornerstone” of NCLB. Between 2002 and 2005, more than $4,000,000,000 (that’s 4 billion dollars) will have been shoveled out in the form of state grants for pre-packaged reading programs that are deemed to be “scientifically-based.” Defining and marketing scientifically-based reading programs has been the quiet 30-year fixation of Dr. Douglas Carnine, who has created a reading research empire with a handful of associates at the University of Oregon, now the Mecca for phonics fanatics, academic hucksters, textbook writers, and other educational snake-oil salesmen seeking to cash in on the trainloads of Reading First cash.
All of these good opportunists returning from their conversion experiences are now elbowing their way to the Federal feeding trough with their newly-minted reading materials inspired by the phonics and phonemic gospels of Doug Carnine and Co., hoping to be selected by states in the multi-multi-million dollar Reading First grant application process. According to some excellent investigative reporting by TitleI Online, companies assembling these ordained reading materials are being blessed by a handful of influential ED reviewers and consultants who accept, reject, and advise on grant applications based on research scripture that has been conducted and published by Carnine and Co. Did I say, too, that the reading materials being marketed and given favored treatment are being written by the same Carnine disciples who did the research? Incestuous, you ask? Well, it’s definitely all in the same small family of neo-conservative educational reformers, where science, marketing, ideology, business, and good old-fashioned corruption come together in an unprecedented, exploitative orgy that threatens to undermine the integrity of the entire preK-12 educational infrastructure. Along with the article linked above, there is a companion piece by Brownstein and Hicks on the rise, or is that ascension, of Doug Carnine (yes, of course, there is a Bush connection).
Oh yeah, here is the composition of the ED Secretary’s Reading Leadership Academy Assessment Committee that met in early 2002 to draft the guidelines for the Reading First Initiative, now pumping out 900 million dollars a year in state grants. More on these committee members later, but you may note the prominence of the University of Oregon colleagues of Doug Carnine:
Team Leader: Dr. Edward J. Kame'enui, University of Oregon
Dr. David Francis, University of Houston
Dr. Lynn Fuchs, Vanderbilt University
Dr. Roland H. Good, III, University of Oregon
Dr. Rollanda O'Connor, University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Deborah C. Simmons, University of Oregon
Dr. Gerald Tindal, University of Oregon
Dr. Joseph Torgesen, Florida State University