A Display of RF Commitment

Sometimes, we just have to trust our gut.  Despite the white noise around us.  Despite what the nattering nabobs are saying.  We just have to go with what we know, make a decision, stand behind it, and reap the benefits.

That seems to be the MO that the good educators down in Louisiana are following.  Yesterday’s Shreveport Times reports that the Caddo School District have committed $1.6 million to continue funding their Reading First programs.  And if the feds don’t make the funding available, they will find the money themselves in the district’s general fund.  The full story can be found here — http://www.shreveporttimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008806050330.

Why?  The good folks in Caddo know that RF works.  They’ve seen it help their low-performing, high-poverty K-3 classrooms, and they don’t want to lose that help.  They recognize that once you find something that works, and I mean really works, you do what is necessary to keep it in place. 

The educators and decisionmakers down in Caddo deserve some credit.  Despite all of the RF “sky is falling” chickens out their waiving around the IES RF interim study, Caddo knows a good thing when they see it.  RF works in schools like theirs and with kids like theirs.  It works, and you can’t take that away from them.

Over at Flypaper, Mike Petrilli praises the folks in Caddo for stepping up to the plate and agreeing to fund RF even if Congress won’t.  And he’s absolutely right.  It’s easy for a district to complain about a federal decision, and bemoan stripped funding and say “if only.”  Caddo Interim Superintendent Wanda Gunn is acting, not talking.  If the feds won’t do it, she’ll do it herself.

But the situation down in Shreveport also raises one important issue that ed reformers and RF advocates alike need to be mindful of.  The Shreveport Times positions this as Caddo spending $1.6 million on “Reading First,” as if the federal funding law were an off-the-shelf basal reading curriculum that school districts can pick up at their next trip to the store.  If only it were that easy. 

RF provides clear guidelines about the sorts of reading programs that should be implemented in the low-income, low-performing schools most in need of assistance.  It requires an educated, savvy superintendent, curriculum director, or reading teacher to take those guidelines, gain an understanding of scientifically based reading research, and make an educated decision on what is best for them, their schools, and their kids.

Despite the growing urban legend, there is no golden list of reading programs that guarantees both federal funding and student success.  It falls to educators to make their way through the smoke, move beyond the mirrors, and really identify the most effective, research-based reading programs for their students.  Programs that embody both the letter and the intent of the federal law.

It seems like the folks in Caddo have done that, and are putting their money where their mouths are.  Here’s hoping other districts will do the same, continuing to build on the gains and successes of the past few years that can only be attributed to SBRR in the classroom.

3 thoughts on “A Display of RF Commitment

  1. There is no scientifically based reading research that RF works – there is only anecdotal evidence that in some schools it works and in some that it doesn’t. Why does no one want to look a the effectiveness of RF across all the schools in a district? Look at the formative assessments within RF and look at the correlation with the State ELA scores.Maintaining the fiction that understanding the research and choosing the program will make a difference is ridiculous. It not the program, it’s the instruction. A bad teacher will get lousy results with RF, a good teacher doesn’t need RF to move kids.In NYC last year, one Principal in Brooklyn got outstanding results using RF, she had to teach it herself in some of her classrooms as some of her teachers were failing with. By monitoring her students progress within the program she was able to make the necessary decisions that led to her students doing exceptionally well on the State ELA tests. Is this an example of RF working or an example of a Principal making RF work? If I was keeping score, I would give RF 10% of the credit and the Principal 90%.

  2. As originally written into the federal law, the U.S. Department of Education was supposed to study the effectiveness of RF across the nation.  That’s why they were given $150 million.  It is a researcher’s dream budget.  We all should be asking where the remaining $120 million went.  If it is still available, maybe it can be designated for the sorts of effectiveness studies you are discussing.I would beg to differ, though, that there is no scientifically based research on the effectiveness of RF.  I’ve recently seen (or heard about) studies on the statewide effectiveness of Reading First in Idaho and Ohio.  ANd these methodologically solid studies do show a real, positive effect.The focus, though, should be on the impact of SBRR, not RF.  RF is merely a funding mechanism.  We should be looking at what schools are using scientifically sound approaches and the achievement results coming from it.I have been doing work with a company that has had real success in NYC offering supplemental reading opportunities.  They’re also making the sort of gains you point to.
    Personally, RF doesn’t need the credit.  We just need to figure out what is working.  ANd what is working at scale.

  3. Is a detailed budget available so we can know why $1.6 million is necessary? Those dollars represent actual services and/or supplies. We need to know WHAT is facilitating the magic.

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