The Washington Post reports that students in the $6 billion Reading First program have not made greater progress in understanding what they read than have their peers outside the program, according to a congressionally mandated study. The final version of the study, released Nov. 17 by the U.S. Department of Education, found that students in schools that use Reading First, a program at the core of the No Child Left Behind law, scored no better on comprehension tests than students in similar schools that do not get the funding. "It is a program that needs to be improved," said Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the department’s research arm. "I don’t think anyone should be celebrating that the federal government has spent $6 billion on a reading program that has had no impact on reading comprehension." Whitehurst said the study showed some benefits. For instance, first-graders in Reading First classrooms were better able to decode, or recognize, printed words than students in schools without the program. Decoding is a key step in learning to read. Reading First, though popular with educators, has been tarnished by allegations of conflicts of interest and mismanagement in recent years. Federal investigators have found that some people who helped oversee the program had financial ties to the publishers of Reading First materials…

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