Keeping Watch on Reading First

Liam Julian

Center on Education Policy
September 2006

Reading First, a grant program enacted as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, distributes federal money to districts and schools that use scientifically-based programs to teach children how to read. This CEP report evaluates the impact this billion-dollar-per-year grant program is having and reports much positive news. Of fifty states surveyed, thirty-five reported that reading achievement was improving (according to the views of state and district officials), and nineteen of these said that Reading First instructional programs were an important or very important factor in the improvements. Districts responding to the survey were even more enthusiastic. Ninety-seven percent of surveyed Reading First districts said Reading First programs had either an important or very important impact on raising student achievement. Among the more interesting pieces of information: 60 percent of Reading First districts said they had to adopt a different reading program in order to qualify for a subgrant, giving one some idea of how many unscientifically-based methods of reading instruction were previously being used in the nation's classrooms. One shortcoming of Reading First, according to the report, is that it could be better coordinated with Early Reading First, another federal program that's aimed at pre-kindergarten youngsters. This small bump aside, Reading First looks to be getting the job done. Read it here.

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