Reading Reform


Newspaper and Internet Articles
Reviews of Publications
Voices From the Grassroots
  • Reading First and Early Reading First - This legislation became law when President Bush signed the "No Child Left Behind Act" on January 8, 2002. This is "one for the children", and all America will benefit."

    • Understanding Reading First" What We Know, What We Don't, and What's Next - June 25, 2009 - MDRC, one of the contractors that worked on the Institute of Education Sciences' final impact study of Reading First (RF), takes a second look...
    • The Good, Bad, and NAEP
      April 29, 2009
      - Eduflack comments on Reading First
    • Reading First in California
      February 28, 2009
      - Williamson Evers comments on a comprehensive impact study of California Reading First schools.
    • Golden Reading Results in the Golden State
      February 10, 2009
      - Eduflack comments on Reading First
    • Response to the Reading First Impact Study Interim Report
      August 20, 2008
      - Advisory Committee introductory letter to Margaret Spellings and Full Report
    • USA Today Editorial - July 9, 2008 Our view on literacy: If you can read this can understand why Reading First deserves to live.
    • No time to close book: Though threatened, reading program is working - July 8, 2008
      by Edward Moscovitch
      Reading First, a major part of the No Child Left Behind law, encourages schools in low-income districts to use frequent assessments and research-based instruction to improve student reading.
    • New Reading First Data from States Shows Impressive Gains in Reading Proficiency - June 23, 2008
    • Looking Beyond the Reading First Controversy - Summer 2008
      by Shep Barbash
      The promise and perils of federal leadership.
    • An Irresponsible Reading Study - May 19, 2008
      by Sol Stern
      The combination of the poorly designed impact study plus sloppy media coverage of the findings is causing serious, and perhaps irreparable damage..."
    • 2008 Reading First Impact Study - May 5, 2008
      Interview with Reid Lyon: Reading First is the largest concerted reading intervention program in the history of the civilized world. (Note comments at the end)
    • Fordham Demands Investigation Into Real Reading First Scandals - March 10, 2008
      Calls for Secretary Margaret Spellings, Rep. David Obey and ED's Office of the Inspector General to account for their actions.
    • An On-Going Conversation with Reid Lyon: About Reading First - April 2-4 2008 A Three Part Series
      The Stern Report and the Fordham Foundation correctly pointed out that many of these untruths led to the slashing of the budget for a program that was doing very good things for the poor kids around the country while at the same time increasing funding for the Title I program — A program that has never undergone serious evaluation of effectiveness and was and is simply an entitlement program that has squandered billions of tax payer dollars over the years."
    • U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings Highlights Success of No Child Left Behind at Reading First State Directors Conference - March 6, 2008
      In her remarks, Secretary Spellings highlighted dramatic gains that students and schools have made with the help of the Reading First Program, which translates decades of scientific research into practical tools for teachers.
    • Too Good to Last: the TRUE STORY of Reading First
      by Sol Stern
      Foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Michael J. Petrelli
      Thomas B. Fordham Institute, March 2008
    • Scientific Research and Schools of Education - January 2008
    • Reading First's Christmas Massacre - January 2008
    • Letter to Editor, Education Week, Reid Lyon - March 2007
    • The Continued Need for Reading First - 2007
    • This Bush Education Reform Really Works Winter 2007
    • Reading First has emerged as the most popular part of the No Child Left Behind Law December 2006
    • Reading First is Working
    • Why Reading First is Working
    • Reading First Annual Performance Report
      The following highlights are from the most recent RF Annual Performance Report, which is prepared annually for DOE by the American Institutes for Research and compiles data reported by the 54 states and jurisdictions in Reading First. All figures are for students at RF schools.

      The data show that not only is RF effective with ELLs, it is in fact MORE effective with that cohort than with the overall RF student population, in the sense that the program is closing the achievement gap between ELLs and the overall RF population in several states.

      The full report is at:

      • Alabama:
        Percentage of third-grade English language learners proficient in comprehension (as measured by the SAT-10) grew from 26.1% in 2003 to 35% in 2006, an increase of 34 percent.
        ELLs in 1st and 2nd grades are in fact out-performing the larger RF population: In 2006, 66.7% of first-grade ELLs were proficient in comprehension, versus only 62.5% proficient for all first-grade RF students; 52.9% of second-grade ELLs were proficient in comprehension vs. only 51.5% for all RF second-grade students.
      • Arizona:
        Percentage of second-grade ELLs proficient in comprehension (as measured by TerraNova) grew from 24.6% in 2005 to 30.6% in 2006, an increase of 24 percent.
        Percentage of third-grade ELLs reaching fluency-proficiency benchmark (measured by DIBELS) grew from 22.8% in 2004 to 30.5% in 2006, an increase of nearly 34 percent.
      • California:
        RF is closing the achievement gap in comprehension between ELLs and all RF students:
        Percentage of third-grade ELLs proficient in comprehension (as measured by CA Standards Test) grew from 11.7% in 2003 to 15% in 2006, an increase of 28 percent, nearly twice the rate of proficiency growth of all RF third-grade students, whose percentage at proficiency grew from 15.7% to 18% in the same period (an increase of 14.6 percent).
      • Florida:
        Here again, RF is closing the achievement gap in comprehension between ELLs and all RF students:
        Percentage of third-grade ELLs proficient in comprehension (as measured by SAT-10) grew from 30.4% in 2004 to 44.1% in 2006, an increase of 45 percent, more than 2.5 times the rate of proficiency growth of all RF third-grade students, whose percentage at proficiency grew from 57.1% to 66.6% in the same period (a gain of 16.7 percent)
      • Texas:
        Percentage of third-grade ELLs proficient in comprehension (as measured by Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) grew from 68.4% in 2003 to 88% in 2006, an increase of 28.6 percent.
      • Virginia:
        Another case where RF is closing the achievement gap:
        Percentage of third-grade ELLs proficient in reading (as measured by the VA Standards of Learning Reading test) grew from 48.6% in 2004 to 71.4% in 2006, an increase of 47 percent, faster than the rate of proficiency growth of all RF third-grade students, whose percentage at proficiency grew from 58.1% to 77.6% in the same period (an increase of 33.5 percent).

    • Reading First Selected State Student Performance Data (2002-2006)
      The GAO, Congress' investigative arm, reports that 69 percent of states surveyed praised Reading First for "great or very great improvement in reading instruction". In addition, 80 percent felt that teacher training had been tremendously improved under the program. Following are the states that we have the statistics for:
      • Alabama: The mean percentile rank for Reading First students has increased from 29% in 2004 to 46% in 2006. The achievement gap between Reading First students and all students on this measure has narrowed from 13% to 4% over that time.
        Mean Percentile Rank for Third Grade SAT-10
        Comparison of DIBELS
      • Arizona: The percentage of English Language Learners reading at grade level in Reading First schools increased from 19% at the beginning of 2003 to 45% at the end of 2006 (as measured by the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills). The percentage of all Reading First students reading at grade level increased from 28% to 52% over that time, more than triple the rate of increase for students at a comparable group of non-Reading First schools (31% to 38%).
        Arizona Reading First: a mid-point progress report
        AZ nogales end data and ELL 12-06.xls
      • California: The percentage of Reading First schools scoring at 600 or higher on the state's Academic Performance Index-the dividing line between basic and below basic performance-has increased from 4% in 1999 (the year the state launched a reading initiative similar to Reading First) to 40% in 2002 (the year Reading First began) to 93% in 2006. The achievement gap between Reading First and other schools on this benchmark has narrowed from 63% to 48% to 6% over that time.
      • Florida: For the state's first cohort of 318 Reading First schools, the percentage of third-grade students meeting grade level standards in oral vocabulary on the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test increased from 43% at the end of year 1 to 50% at the end of year 3 (2006). By comparison, only 38% of kindergartners in this cohort met grade level standards in vocabulary at the end of year 3. This suggests that Reading First is closing the gap in vocabulary knowledge for the predominantly poor students who attend these schools.
      • Montana: The percentage of 4th grade Reading First students scoring at proficient or above on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills has increased from 51 percent in Spring 2003 to 64.3 percent in Spring 2006, more than double the average rate of improvement on the ITBS for all schools.
      • Ohio: Response to Reading First Interim Report by Dr. James A. Salzman, CoDirector Reading First Ohio Center - The report is methodologically flawed, statistically glamorous, and ultimately meaningless in terms of its conclusions.
      • Oregon: For the state's first cohort of 33 Reading First schools, the percentage of 3rd graders at grade level in oral reading fluency (as measured by DIBELS) increased from 38% in year 1 to 50% in year 3. (Oral reading fluency correlates closely with reading comprehension.) The percentage of 3rd graders who scored at grade level on the Oregon State Assessment increased from 47% to 53% over that time. By comparison, only 35% of students in the state's second cohort of 16 Reading First schools were at grade level in oral reading fluency and 41% were at grade level on the state's test after one year in the program. This suggests that the longer schools are in Reading First, the better they do.
        Oregon Reading First: Three-Year Report Preliminary Impact Evidence
      • Washington: For the state's first cohort of 53 Reading First schools, the percentage of 3rd graders at grade level on DIBELS increased from 43.8% in Spring 2004 to 60.1% in Spring 2006. The percentage of students in this cohort who met or exceeded acceptable performance on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning increased 26% (from 39.7% to 65.7%) between 2003 and 2006, nearly triple the 9.5% gain for the state overall during that time. This closing of the achievement gap is particularly impressive given that 83.6% of the Reading First students are low-income, compared to 35.9% low-income for the state overall.
        WA data notes.pdf
        WA Reading FirstEthnic breakdown.pdf
        Washington State Reading First 2006 DIBELS results.pdf
      • West Virginia: All 36 Reading First schools in 2006 met the Adequate Yearly Progress target set by the state as required by the No Child Left Behind Act. All but 3 exceeded the state's third grade reading cut score of 72% mastery on the state's WESTEST assessment.
        The State of Reading First in West Virginia

    • Keeping Watch on Reading First—Center for Education Policy, July 2006

    • Reading First Success Stories
      If you have a Reading First success story to share, either as an educator (principal, teacher, volunteer) or a parent or student, please send it to and we will list it here under this heading. You may or may not be anonymous, as you choose.

    • Reading First State Grant Awards Chart
    • Paige Announces $72 Million in Early Reading First Grants --U.S. Department of Education, 1/23/03
    • Dept. of Education To Hike Oversight Of Reading Grants --Education Week 11/13/02
    • Insisting on Reading Results for Our Children --Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/2/02
    • Paige Announces Names of Experts Who Will Review Reading First Applications - 5/13/02
      - The Facts about...Reading First
      - Reading First Review Panel
    • The Secretary's Reading Leadership Academy
      The U.S. Department of Education is sponsoring a series of conferences being held in Washington, D.C. during January and February, 2002, for the purpose of providing information and guidance to the education leadership of the States regarding the implementation of Reading First and Early Reading First legislation. Information is available on the U.S. Department of Education web site, In addition, every area pertinent to Reading First, including commonly asked questions with answers, is covered in depth, making it a valuable resource for any entity or individual seeking to implement an effective reading program.
    • Put Reading First--Helping Your Child Learn to Read, A Parent Guide and Put Reading First--The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read are two helpful resources designed to make evidence-based research available to educators, parents, policy-makers, and others who have an interest in helping all children learn to read. To order free copies, contact: National Institute for Literacy at ED Pubs, P.O. Box 1398, Jessup, MD 20794, Phone 1-800-228-8813, E-mail Download the documents at, another excellent source of information on scientifically based reading research.
    • House-Senate Education Conference Approves President’s Reading Initiatives, Other Agreements - 9/25/01
    • House-Senate Leaders Set to Ratify Agreements on Reading First Education Watch - 9/25/01
    • President Bush Promotes Reading at Back to School Event - 8/15/01
    • Today President Bush announced his education proposal, "No Child Left Behind." It includes a major reading initiative called "Reading First". Full text of proposal. - 1/23/01

  • Phonics and the Evolution of Reading Policy - 2/2004
    During his research for the public television documentary series Children of the Code (, producer David Boulton interviewed Robert W. Sweet, Jr., NRRF President and Co-Founder, about his role in the battle for scientifically based reading reform which includes an explicit, systematic phonics component.

  • Reading Programs Under Review - 2004
    NRRF encourages product developers to submit their reading programs to the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) for review. The WWC at strives to put evidence into the hands of educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public so that they can make choices about educational interventions (programs, products, practices, and policies) based on high-quality scientific research. WWC reports will provide information on the effectiveness of educational interventions and can be used to make educational decisions, improve educational practices, and enhance student outcomes. Contact the WWC at the address below for details on how to submit your reading program for consideration, and what evidence they require to determine its effectiveness.

    What Works Clearinghouse
    2277 Research Boulevard, MS 6M
    Rockville, MD 20850
    Phone: 1-866-WWC-9799
    Fax: 301-519-6760

  • A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush - 12/2004
    by Ronald Kessler
    The Penguin Group
    310 pages • 5.5 x 8.5 softcover
    ISBN 1-59523-014-9 • $14.00

    In this engrossing portrayal of President George W. Bush, the author interviewed Robert W. Sweet, Jr., NRRF President and Co-Founder, for two chapters devoted to Bush's reading initiatives while Governor of Texas and as President. To order, visit or

  • Paige Blasts "Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations" --U.S. Department of Education, 3/14/03
  • James Earl Jones and Theo Lion Join House Members to Promote Literacy on Capitol Hill, 10/8/02

  • Remarks by Mrs. Bush to House Education and Workforce Committee - 3/14/02

  • Reading Excellence Act

  • House Concurrent Resolution 214 (H. CON. RES. 214)
    Expressing the Sense of Congress that direct systematic phonics instruction should be used in all schools.

    This Sense of the Congress Resolution, introduced by Congressman David McIntosh of Indiana, was voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives on November 4, 1999. The bipartisan vote was 224 in favor and 193 opposed, but because a two thirds majority vote is required for passage of bills brought up under suspension, the resolution was not agreed to. However, Congressman McIntosh intends to push for passage of this bill in the second session of the 106th Congress. Congressman McIntosh is running for Governor of Indiana. This is the first time in history that a resolution to teach systematic phonics has received a majority vote of the House of Representatives.

  • Washington, DC
    Reading Summit

State News - Find out what action is taking place in your state to bring phonics back to the schools.

Reading First State Grant Awards Chart

Newspaper and Internet Articles

Reviews of Publications—Books, Reports, and Articles

Voices from the Grassroots of America
This page features a sampling of the constant input we receive from many across America who have had their own traumatic and frustrating experiences in trying to provide quality reading instruction for their children and students, and are grateful for the help they receive from NRRF.

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