Pro­gram’s Cre­ator Is Hired to As­sess It

The Washington Post Sunday - - National News -

The gov­ern­ment con­trac­tor that set up a bil­lion-dol­lar-a-year fed­eral read­ing pro­gram for the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment and failed, ac­cord­ing to the de­part­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral, to keep it free of con­flicts of in­ter­est is one of the com­pa­nies now eval­u­at­ing the pro­gram.

Read­ing First, part of Pres­i­dent Bush’s sig­na­ture No Child Left Be­hind ed­u­ca­tion law, pro­vides in­tense read­ing help to low-in­come chil­dren in the early el­e­men­tary grades. RMC Re­search Corp. was hired to es­tab­lish and im­ple­ment the pro­gram start­ing in 2002, un­der three con­tracts worth about $40 mil­lion.

Re­cently, the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral re­ported that RMC failed to keep the pro­gram free of con­flicts of in­ter­est. For ex­am­ple, RMC did not screen sub­con­trac­tors for re­la­tion­ships with pub­lish­ers of read­ing pro­grams.

Now, Read­ing First is in the midst of a con­gres­sion­ally man­dated eval­u­a­tion un­der a 2003 con­tract with a team that in­cludes RMC, based in Portsmouth, N.H.

Law­mak­ers who have been in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Read­ing First pro­gram crit­i­cized the con­nec­tion.

“If it’s true that RMC was also hired to eval­u­ate the ef­fec­tive­ness of the very pro­gram it was hired to help im­ple­ment, then the con­flict of in­ter­est could not be any clearer,” Rep. Ge­orge Miller (D-Calif.), chair­man of the House ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee, said Fri­day.

“It’s a clas­sic case of the fox guard­ing the chicken coop,” said Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who chairs the Se­nate ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee.

The in­spec­tor gen­eral found that fed­eral of­fi­cials in­ter­vened to in­flu­ence state and lo­cal de­ci­sions about read­ing pro­grams, a po­ten­tial vi­o­la­tion of the law.

RMC did not re­turn calls seek­ing com­ment. Nor did Abt As­so­ciates, a con­trac­tor based in Cam­bridge, Mass., that hired RMC as a sub­con­trac­tor.

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