Reading & Literacy

Advocates of ‘Reading Recovery’ Responding to Critics

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — November 06, 2002 2 min read
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Advocates of a popular one-on-one tutoring program are again attempting to refute a campaign by some prominent reading experts who question the program’s claims of success.

Read “What Evidence Says About Reading Recovery,” from the Reading Recovery Council of North America. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The Reading Recovery Council of North America laid out its case for the effectiveness—and cost-effectiveness—of its widely used program in a report released last month. “What the Evidence Says About Reading Recovery” came in response to a three-page critique of the program sent out last spring by researchers and recirculated again this fall.

In the critique, those researchers urged lawmakers in Washington to reject state requests to use federal reading money to pay for the Reading Recovery program, saying that the council’s claims about the approach’s success were not backed by research.

The Reading Recovery Council called the critique, circulated primarily by e-mail, “a political attack in the guise of an academic debate.” Council officials said they were told recently by congressional aides and school personnel that they had received the critique again by mail.

Some 10,600 elementary schools in the United States use the reading program, serving about 150,000 1st graders every year. Over the past 18 years, more than 1 million students have received the daily 30-minute tutoring sessions over a 12- to 20-week period.

The program trains teachers from within a participating district or school in Reading Recovery methods, generally using local money. It is designed to provide intensive tutoring to low-performing students.

Point-by-Point Rebuttal

Thirty-two researchers signed the critique, which outlined what they described as “weaknesses” in the Reading Recovery program.

The document cited a lack of evidence that the program works with students most at risk of failing, as well as the program’s cost of about $8,000 per student.(“Researchers Urge Officials to Reject Reading Recovery,” June 5, 2002.) The new report from the Reading Recovery Council, based in Columbus, Ohio, offers a point-by-point rebuttal of the researchers’ critique.

Under the Reading First initiative of the federal “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001, states will share some $900 million a year to implement research-based reading programs for needy children. The initiative requires that the money be spent only on programs and methods that have scientific evidence of their effectiveness.

“Classroom instruction is receiving the emphasis under Reading First, but the legislation also calls for some sort of intervention for struggling learners,” said Marybeth Schmitt, the council’s president. “We felt the intent of the letter [by the researchers] was to keep us from being a viable choice” for states applying for Reading First.

A version of this article appeared in the November 06, 2002 edition of Education Week as Advocates of ‘Reading Recovery’ Responding to Critics

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