Monday, October 09, 2006

Reading First: A "Scorching" Review by the US Inspector General

An internal review by the US Inspector General found little to celebrate regarding the USDOE's handling of the Reading First program. The report makes some very strong claims:

The selection of the review panel violated the law because each application was not reviewed by the appropriate panel.
The USDOE substituted a department-created report in place of the panels comments.
State applications were forced to meet standards not required by law.
The review panels were not representative of the agencies authorized to do the review; and the majority of the reviewers were actually nominated by the USDOE.

While the report is very critical of the USDOE in many regards, the report finds (among other issues) that the USDOE did not follow its own guidance for the Peer Review process.

Now, I don't know about you, but I have been through several statewide Peer Reviews for the AYP/NCLB assessment compliance and found those to be very inconsistent. We followed a "black box" process where we provided information going in (with little knowledge of how it was going to be used). Coming out of the "box" was compliance or noncompliance. I have often wondered what went on inside that black box; and the Reading First review makes me even more curious.

Perhaps the Inspector General should consider auditing or reviewing the AYP/NCLB (Title I) Peer Review process, if for no other reason than to open this black box. Or is that Pandora's box?

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