"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, March 30, 2007

So Much Reading First Corruption, So Little Time

I am glad to see the news media finally starting to pay attention the fact that Reading First is the most corrupt education program in American history:

WASHINGTON — A billion-dollar-a-year federal reading program that ran into scathing criticism over conflicts of interest now has a new one: The government contractor that set up the program for the Education Department is also part of the team hired to evaluate it.

Reading First — part of President Bush's signature No Child Left Behind education law — has been under scrutiny following a string of federal reports that found it rife with conflicts of interest and mismanagement. The program provides intense reading help to low-income children in the early elementary grades.

RMC Research Corp. was the contractor hired to establish and implement the program starting in 2002, under three contracts worth about $40 million.

Recently, the Department of Education inspector general reported that RMC failed to keep the program free of conflicts of interest. For example, RMC did not screen subcontractors for relationships with publishers of reading programs.

Now, Reading First is in the midst of a five-year evaluation under a 2003 contract with a team that includes RMC, which is based in Portsmouth, N.H.

Congress required the review, spelling out that it must be an "independent evaluation."

That didn't mean for the contractor that set up the program to have any role in reviewing it, said Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, who chairs the education committee.

"It's a classic case of the fox guarding the chicken coop," Kennedy said Friday.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House education committee, raised similar concerns when notified Friday of RMC's role in the evaluation.

"RMC played a significant role in the implementation of Reading First and, according to the inspector general, a sometimes flawed role. If it's true that RMC was also hired to evaluate the effectiveness of the very program it was hired to help implement, then the conflict of interest could not be any clearer," Miller said.

Both lawmakers have been investigating Reading First, and Miller announced Friday he would hold a hearing on the issue April 20. . . .

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