To further illustrate the point that contamination may have occurred among Reading First and presumably "non" Reading First schools, a point I made in my piece in??today's Gadfly,??Connie Choate, the director of Arkansas Reading First, writes:
I believe the design of the Impact Study is flawed.?? The study compared funded Reading First schools with non-funded RF schools within the same district.?? However in their RF proposals districts were required to include a plan for spreading the RF methodology to non-funded schools.?? States were also required to do the same.?? For example, all teachers across the state were invited to participate in ELLA, Effective Literacy, Summer Reading Camp, and several other professional development opportunities that are part of Reading First.?? We aligned all of this professional development to SBRR.?? So, even non-funded schools have benefited from RF.?? One example is the revision of the State English Language Arts Frameworks. The knowledge gained from the National Reading Panel Report and Reading First enabled the state to revise the English Language Arts Framework to align with SBRR.?? All professional development offered by the state is now aligned to SBRR.?? This should align curriculum and instruction in all schools to SBRR, not just our RF funded schools.?? We have created many materials in Reading First and have made them available to all schools.??
Ms. Choate got me thinking that it would be a good idea to take a look at the feds' application for state RF grants. And sure enough, what she says rings true. Consider this from page 1:
Each SEA may reserve up to 20 percent of the Reading First funds it receives for State use. These funds will assist States in building and maintaining statewide capacity to effectively teach all children to read by third grade. States may expend up to 65 percent of these reserved funds for activities related to professional development... This unprecedented and significant funding will provide States with the resources and opportunity to extend this reading initiative and to improve reading instruction beyond the specific schools and districts that receive Reading First subgrants (emphasis added).
And should there be any confusion, page five includes the selection criteria for awarding grants. Potential state grantees, in a section called the State Professional Development Plan, are to answer this question: "How will teachers statewide receive professional development in the essential components of reading instruction, using scientifically based instructional strategies, programs and materials, and using screening, diagnostic, and classroom based instructional assessments?"
Again, it's a great idea to spread the instructional reading wealth among state schools, but it??sure makes it all the more difficult to assess what is really happening in this evaluation, which sought to draw a line in the sand between treatment and comparison schools.