Rewriting RF History?

Today at the National Reading First Conference, Deputy Education Secretary Ray Simon accused Reading First opponents of “changing the truth” of RF through appropriations and reauthorization.  And for this he gets resounding applause from Eduflack (in addition to the thousands of teachers on their feet). 

Over the past two years, RF’s vocal opposition has invested its time, efforts, and professional reputation to rewriting history when it comes to RF.  We’ve all but forgotten the goals and intent of the law.  Many have ignored the wide and deep research base upon which the law was based.  We’ve given up on the thousands of teachers who have improved their craft through RF professional development offerings.  And in denying funding for the law, we’ve abandoned the countless children who have improved their outlook on education, their enthusiasm for school, and the host of potential opportunities before them.

The Deputy Secretary noted that a better way to teach reading was put into place through Reading First.  Nothing could be more true.  Just look at the schools cited by First Lady Laura Bush, listen to the teachers and administrators gathered this week in Nashville, or take a closer view at the RF schools and the non-RF schools who have all improved their practice, their instruction, and their results because of the tenets of the law.

There are some RF truths we simply shouldn’t allow anyone to change.  Virtually every child can be a proficient reader.  The research on how to get to that level is clear and incontrovertible.  Proven-effective reading instruction has been embraced by teachers across the nation.  And if implemented with fidelity, RF can work.  These truths should be self-evident.  Unfortunately, to far too many people, they are viewed as heresy, white noise, or rants of a misguided few.

The clock may be running out shoring up these truths.  The power of RF is likely run its course by the end of the Administration.  Even if the program receives CR funding for FY2009, the money is but a shell of what was intended, and what is needed, for schools in need to make a real difference.  But maybe, just maybe, the truth can win out.  After all, who can argue with the need to get every kid reading … and reading proficiently? 

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