Friday, May 2, 2008

"Reading First": Another $6 billion wasted by the Bush Administration

From today's NYT:
Reading Program Is Called Ineffective

President Bush’s $1 billion a year initiative to teach reading to low-income children has not helped improve their reading comprehension, according to a Department of Education report released on Thursday.

The program, known as Reading First, drew on some of Mr. Bush’s educational experiences as Texas governor, and at his insistence, Congress included it in the federal No Child Left Behind law that passed by bipartisan majorities in 2001. It has been a subject of dispute almost ever since, however, with the Bush Administration and some state officials characterizing the program as beneficial for young students, even after federal investigators found extensive conflicts of interest among its top advisers.
I happen to know a little bit about teaching reading. Before I left teaching middle school I had met all the requirements to be certified as a "Reading Specialist," I just never applied for the certification before I decided to switch to teaching adults. And in the 6 short years that I taught kids, I can't even begin to tell you how many "new" reading programs were thrust upon us. And you know what never ceased to amaze me? There's nothing new about teaching reading. All these programs simply do is take a little of this and a little of that, call it something catchy, and put it in a shiny box. Oh yeah, and lobby the right people, the ones who run the budgets. Shall we count the programs?
  • Recipe for Reading
  • Wilson Reading
  • Orton-Gillingam
  • Success for All
Oh that's just a few. My reading teacher friends can fill in all the rest. In fact, one of my friends and I always said we should put together a "new" reading program so we could retire. Because in fact, there are elements of teaching reading that we have used as humans since the first symbols were scratched on the cave walls thousands of years ago. And the most useful element to teaching reading is the same as it always has been: access. Access to reading materials, access to teachers, access to time. So instead of spending $6 billion on a reading "program," as a one-size-fits-all way of teaching our kids, why not spend it on hiring more teachers? Building more schools? Buying more books for school libraries? Hiring more school librarians?

Why not? Because teachers and librarians are not Bush Administrations cronies, that's why. (Laura's brief career notwithstanding.) From Common Dreams, almost exactly one year ago:

A scathing report issued today documents “substantial financial ties” between key advisors of Reading First, a controversial federal reading grant program, and publishers who benefited from the program.

The report, issued by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, called the findings “troublesome because they diminish the integrity of the Reading First program.”

The Kennedy report centers on four directors of the Reading First Technical Assistance Centers, who, the report says, were highly influential in advising states on which reading programs to adopt in order to qualify for federal funds.

According to the report, the directors had “extensive ties with education publishers” at the same time they were responsible for evaluating other publishers’ programs. The report concluded that such ties may have “improperly influenced actions.”

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., has called for a criminal investigation of Reading First by the Justice Department. According to Miller, the conflicts of interest uncovered “raises questions about criminal activity and criminal intent about what a number of these players were doing.”

"No Child Left Behind" and all of the ridiculous scams associated with it need to be eliminated. End of story.

This is quite disturbing ...

yet sadly, true. Oh, Fritz.

What celebrity would your pet be? I'm Johnny Knoxville! Find out at

I'm afraid to do the one for the cats ....

h/t/ to Mauigirl for sharing the quiz

Guess who's 39 ... again?

Yes, that's right. Or maybe with my new haircut I should say I'm "29"? Anyway, what's with the gratuitous mention of my birthday today? Well, I want something from you all. (There's always a catch, isn't there?)

This month, Unnamed Partner and I will be going to Ptown for a week. As in Massachusetts. In mid-May. It's a little risky, I know. But we seem to be eternal students, which means we are eternally on a budget, and we need to get a deal where we can. Which means going to the beach before Memorial Day.

Okay, so what do I need from you? Some good books. Well, not the actual books -- I would be quite happy with the titles, really. You see, if the weather is sketchy, I foresee plenty of time to curl up together and catch up on some reading, but I need your help:

What is the best book you've read lately?

By the way, today is also the birthday of Englebert Humperdinck, Bianca Jagger, Catherine the Great, and Lou Gramm (yes, from Foreigner).

And also on this day in 1938, Ella Fitzgerald recorded "A-Tisket A-Tasket," so let's enjoy, shall we?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

For the love of dogs

I didn't mention that on Tuesday evening, after a very long day -- which began with a beautiful funeral service but ended many, many hours later -- my boy Fritz sensed that we desperately needed a distraction. So, with barely enough time to make it to the regular vet's before she closed, he ran into a piece of wire fencing, causing a deep gash just below his right eye. You can click on the image to see a closeup of his newly shaved eyebrow and his stitches.

And as you can also see, it doesn't seem to be bothering him much. He leaves the stitches alone, and does not seem too self-conscious about the shaved eyebrow. (What, will he insist on a piercing next?) And now, 3 times a day we have the distracting chore of applying antibiotic cream to the stitches. That, he hates. So that's fun.

And as you can see from the picture at right, he is being a little bit coy about his new look, but is still trying to cheer us up with his usual goofy smile.

The cat, however, is not impressed.