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

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Reading First: "unproven magnet of corruption"

From USA Today:
WASHINGTON — Is the federal government getting out of the reading business?

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted last week to eliminate funding for Reading First, the groundbreaking but controversial Bush administration program that has given states $1 billion a year since 2002 to teach low-income elementary schoolers to read. A House committee also had voted to eliminate funding; if money is not restored before the federal budget is approved in the fall, the program could end.

Democrats in Congress say the program was an unproven magnet for corruption. House hearings last year focused on financial ties between its top advisers and major textbook publishers, who account for a large share of materials schools use. A U.S. Justice Department investigation, begun last year, is still pending. . . .

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:32 PM

    would identify the single most important issue in education as the one most frequently over-looked: reading. As obvious as it may seem, the fact is that in most area schools, students are not provided with a place and time to simply sit and digest that which is taught or supplement it with outside reading. It's as if teachers are telling the students: "what I provide you is all you need to know about this topic."

    Absent among the many "How to..." books is the one that discusses various ways in which a reading environment can be constructed that is most conducive to the way children read. Perhaps the modern library with its multimedia buzz is not the best place for this to happen.

    I would like to see each school provide a nice, quiet place where students, teachers, and even parents could simply sit and read whatever they want without direction or interference. The role of parents as reading models cannot be overestimated; parent volunteers would be on hand constantly simply sitting and reading quietly, teaching by example. Perhaps an adjoining room could be set up as a "read-aloud" room for small groups to share what they enjoy most about what they read.

    Do not expect administrators to buy into this concept anytime soon. I have submitted a detailed proposal in three area school districts, been patted on the back and told how "wonderful" it sounded, then waited for any kind of action. I'm still waiting.

    Crucial to this concept is allowing students the freedom to read whatever they want. Libraries are actively censored with “net-nannies” and book banning restricting rebellious thought. Rebellion is inherent in teenagers, it’s how they’re hardwired (perhaps, as socio-biologists postulate, so they “leave the nest”).

    Could it be that administrators fear what might happen if their professed desire to teach "critical thinking skills" was actually implemented, that encouraging students to do so might also imply that they can criticize the way schools are being run? The near-complete lack of free-wheeling student newspapers in area schools is indicative of the reticence principals have to allow First Amendment rights to be practiced since doing so might invite criticism—valid or otherwise—of the current school environment.

    Or perhaps the administrators fear parents busying themselves with what should be their own business. What if, God forbid, the parents come to the realization that quite a bit of time was being wasted in a school when a more productive endeavor—reading, perhaps—could be taking place?

    If a child is to internalize reading as a necessary activity, it will require adults to model this behavior and many more, still, to show that it can even be a viable alternative to a jail cell (prisoners typically have plenty of time to read; teachers enjoy teaching such captive audiences)