The latest Weekly Standard features the Reading First "scandal" on its cover and asks (appropriately enough) "why does Congress hate the one part of No Child Left Behind that works?" Author Charlotte Allen's answer is that members of Congress in general, and Democrats in particular, are cozy with whole language advocates who argue that their preferred approach, "like Marxism, [has] never been properly tried." There may, of course, be a simple explanation: Democrats are happy to pile on the increasingly unpopular president for any alleged sin, and Republicans in Congress are in no mood to defend him. Allen's provocative piece goes off-track when she identifies reading guru Reid Lyon as the developer of the Voyager Universal Literacy program (that would be entrepreneur Randy Best). And she overreaches when she calls Reading First "dazzlingly successful"; hard data on the program are still tough to find, and Washington is abuzz with rumors that the government's multi-million dollar (but bizarrely designed) evaluation of the program (to be released this fall) will show few or no effects. In a world where federal education programs almost never work, except as vehicles for distributing dollars, Reading First merely needs to prove helpful, not miraculous.
"Read it and weep," by Charlotte Allen, The Weekly Standard, July 16, 2007