As the school year ends, the Rogue Desk recognizes another less celebratory transition: the passage of University of Oregon education professor Ed Kame’enui into Rogue-dom for profiting on the backs of kids.
Researchers charged by Congress to study one piece of No Child Left Behind had scathing news last month about the act’s $1-billion-a-year Reading First program, designed in part by Kame’enui. They concluded the program has failed to improve elementary students’ reading comprehension.
Yet schools around the country together spent upward of $5 billion in federal money on new textbooks that conformed to Reading First’s design. Oregon schools, including Portland Public Schools, spent about $58 million.
Critics call the program a waste and pseudoscience (though there have been some educational gains in Oregon). But that’s just the beginning of Reading First’s problems. And many of the others fall at the Roguish feet of Kame’enui, a 60-year-old associate dean at UO’s College of Education.
Last year, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) alleged the program was rife with cronyism and conflicts of interest, resulting in calls to strengthen protections against such violations.
Kame’enui, at the epicenter of that storm, profited from the federal program—making about $150,000 a year, according to Kennedy—by serving as a consultant and author for two publishers that wanted in on the program’s textbook-buying bonanza. Hauled before Congress in April 2007, Kame’enui said, “It is now clear that more should have been required by the U.S. Department of Education…to prevent the issues that have arisen.”
Kame’enui’s name is now synonymous with what those in the elementary-education set consider one of Washington’s biggest boondoggles. Kame’enui did not respond to WW’s phone calls or emails.