Reading Recovery, not for the dyslexic or anyone else!

Have you heard of Reading Recovery? Reading Recovery had a well planned public relations scheme, claiming to be the messiah of reading instruction, saving schools from the fallout of the whole language debacle. It got huge press and publicity from Linda Davis, the then Assistant Superintendent of the California Department of Education

A long winded paper called "Reading Recovery in California Program Overview" offers descriptions of how the program was implemented but the results of the program were very anecdotal. When hard numbers were offered as improvement, no standard clinician types of testing materials used by educational psychologist to measure reading skills. It talks more about how much the teachers like the training rather than how the instruction really improves reading.

Unfortunately, Reading Recovery did not contain the components of a successful research based program as found by reading experts Louisa Moats, Susan Hall or Joseph Torgeson.

Unfortunately, San Francisco Unified School District got sucked into Reading Recovery, hook, line and sinker. See There were honorable intentions but it is time to cut the losses.

Remember 36 hours to change a child's life It only took Lindamood Bell trained reading expert, Amber Lamprecht, 36 hours of tutoring 4 children at one time, to give them gains of 1 year, 4 months at E.R. Taylor elementary school. At the same time, at the other end of the school, Reading Recovery was being administered (and is still) to the rest of the students 5 days per week at 1:1 ratio!! While it is really nice to have 1:1 instruction to build a warm relationship between teacher and student, maybe it is time to look at the classroom curriculum! According to the SARC report for that year, the percentage of regular education students reading at advanced or proficient rate was 53%. Pretty good, but not the fantastic results one would expect for so much individualized instruction.

However, the current year ER Taylors SARC shows special education students reading at advanced or proficient level is a dismal 9%.  

To make a bad story worse, it has now been proven that Reading Recovery's "research" was flawed and the results were not impressive!

Here is the proof:

"The following is a summary of the findings of these reviews and other studies evaluating the impact of Reading Recovery. These findings should be considered in deciding whether to adopt, expand, or terminate Reading Recovery programs. The Reading Recovery data reporting system is flawed. The in-house Reading Recovery evaluation system results in considerable bias in the data collected through that system. Persons responsible for success collect the data on success. Without explanation, about half the data on children eligible for Reading Recovery are omitted from final analyses (Shanahan & Barr, 1995). In addition, the measures used to evaluate Reading Recovery (Clay Diagnostic Measures) emphasize tasks that align with the specific strategies taught in Reading Recovery (Center, Wheldall, & Freeman, 1992; Wasik & Slavin, 1993). For example, the children are taught to use context to predict words rather than sounding them out. The reading measure uses predictable text, rather than text that uses authentic, natural language patterns. Children who have learned the prediction strategies of Reading Recovery will score better reading predictable text than they will reading authentic text. Because of the close alignment of the measures with the strategies taught in Reading Recovery, the results of an evaluation using these measures are biased in favor of Reading Recovery.

The standard for successful completion of Reading Recovery is not equitable. Reading Recovery's goal to bring the lowest pupils to the average level of their class, falls short of a more equitable standard level, such as the national average. The average level of performance of a class of children from low income areas is about the 20th percentile on national norm-referenced measures. ("Grade level" is the 50th percentile.) In inner-city schools where so many students do not learn to read, only a few students can be served with Reading Recovery. Some of the lowest children will be brought up to only the 20th percentile and many children performing below the 20th percentile will not be served. As a statewide intervention Reading Recovery would result in allocating the same resources to the goal of raising a few children in a low income school to the 20th percentile that it would allocate to a high income school raising children scoring below the 80th percentile to the 80th percentile. This inequity raises constitutional issues because it impacts minority children, who are overrepresented in low income schools. Average first-grade children are more likely to be non readers in low income schools.

Reading Recovery does not raise overall school achievement levels. If a school's goal is to raise the overall level of reading performance, Reading Recovery is not the appropriate intervention to choose. Overall school achievement scores are not improved with the use of Reading Recovery (Hiebert, 1994). Both Reading Recovery advocates and critics agree on this point (Hiebert, 1994; Pinnell & Lyons, 1995) " For full report

Of course there is no research to support reading recovery serves any children with reading disorders.

The news continues to get worse.

In another report titled, Reading Recovery: Distinguishing Myth from Reality, it states: "Overall, the findings of this meta-analysis do not provide support for the superiority of Reading Recovery over other one-to-one reading interventions. Typically, about 30 percent of students who begin Reading Recovery do not complete the program and do not perform significantly better than control students. As indicated in this meta-analysis, results reported for students who do complete the program may be inflated due to the selective attrition of students from some treatment groups and the use of measures that may bias the results in favor of Reading Recovery students. Thus it is particularly disturbing that sweeping endorsements of Reading Recovery still appear in the literature." For full report see:

Time to teach the teachers:

OK, it is time for San Francisco Unified School District to take a deep breath and let go of a labor intensive ineffective reading program. It is time to start using proven reading programs like Lindamood Bell or Orton Gillingham multi sensory programs that work for dyslexic children. If a reading program has a proven history of working with dyslexic children will work for all children. However, it is imperative teachers get quality training with an intense mentoring component. Three day workshops simply will not do. There needs to be period of mentoring for several months.

For example, tutors at Lindamood Bell get 40 hours of classroom instruction, THEN, they get one to one and a half months of mentoring while they worked with the students at a 1:1 ratio. The good news for school districts is that this training does not have to be given to just teachers. Paras or other professionals can successfully be taught. At Lindamood Bell, most of the trainees are college students.

The "bad" result of this phenomenon is "professional jealously". How ironic is it that non-teachers and college students can successfully teach reading to the "hardest to teach" children? Children can make years of reading gains in months with this style of teaching! Many teachers that have called themselves "reading specialists" for years, who are not acquainted with proven methodology or multi-sensory instruction, are eager to vilify Orton Gillingham programs or Lindamood Bell because they are more interested in job security or self preservation rather than making sure the children are served with proven methodolgy. Colleges who do not teach the teachers properly also join in on this bashing, again, all in self interest. Doesn't anyone remember that kids come first in the teaching profession?

The teachers who are truly successfully and knowledgeable about multi-sensory have been writing very supportive comments to me about how nice it is to see someone bring up the topic of the reading methodology which truly works for dyslexic children.

Good will and good intentions do not teach, skilled multi-sensory instructors do! They are the heroes for our kids and the guiding hope and light for their future.

For more info: