Sunday, April 22, 2007

Follow the Money

In a front-page article in Saturday’s Washington Post, Amit R. Paley reports that the Justice Department in investigating profiteering and cronyism connected to the No Child Left Behind law.

At the center of the investigation is Reading First, a Department of Education program which provides $1 billion in grants each year to improve reading for children in kindergarten through third grade. Under NCLB, third grade students are required to pass the reading test to advance to the fourth grade. Education Department employees who oversaw these grants, including Christopher J. Doherty, former director of Reading First, steered recipients to purchase certain textbooks and tests with their grant money. Doherty’s wife was a paid consultant for Direct Instruction, which investigators said Doherty “tried to force schools to use.”

Dynamic Measurement Group, developer of another reading test, made $1.3 million after being “endorsed by a Reading First evaluation panel.” Half-owner of the company, Roland H. Good III, was a member of the panel. Other members of the panel also profited from Reading First endorsements. In fact, 7 of the 24 tests endorsed by the Reading First panel had ties to panel members.

In Texas, vigilance is necessary to insure that everything associated with the multi-million dollar testing industry is above board. Lucrative contracts to develop and score tests, in addition to teaching materials to prepare students for the tests, provide ample opportunity for cronyism and influence peddling to become part of the selection process. TAKS and NCLB should not become avenues for the well-connected to enrich themselves at tax-payer expense.

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