But the question remains whether the initial gains will end and whether the state reading will translate into better performance in the exams. This new study on the long-term effects of reading recovery, according to May, is the largest, most rigorous effort to address that question.
The students who participated in Reading Recovery did worse than similar students in the next grade who did not receive the program.
“Was Reading Recovery Harmful? I don’t want to say as much,” he said. “But what we do know is that the kids who get it for some reason lose their profits and then fall behind.”
In a written response to the study, the Reading Recovery Council of North America, the organization that supports the program in the United States, debated some research methods and maintained that their programs were effective. It added: “Reading recovery has changed and will continue in response to evidence gathered from extensive research by both students of primary reading and writing and their teachers.”
The US is dropping school reading recovery
At one time, Reading Recovery was in every state. But school districts are dropping the program – today, it has about 2,000 schools in 41 states.
In fact, the first district in the United States to implement the program recently decided to stop using it.
Leslie Kelly, executive director of education and teaching at Columbus City School in Ohio, said the decision to drop Reading Recovery was part of a larger effort to bring “reading science” to the district. He said that he and his colleagues realized that their approach to reading instruction, including reading recovery, was not well aligned with that science.
His advice to other districts that are still using Reading Recovery is to closely monitor the program’s effectiveness: “Do your research. Read a lot, and really see if you have evidence of impact. That’s really the point. What do you have? Evidence of impact, and How do you know? And if you have no evidence of your influence, you need to ask yourself why and then what are you going to do about it? “
Reading recovery was already controversial
Critics of Reading Recovery have long claimed that children in the program do not receive clear and systematic instructions on how to decode words. In addition, they say, children are taught to use context, pictures, and other formulas to identify words, a technique that may work in first-grade books but is less effective as the text becomes more difficult. They say that children may seem like good readers in the first grade but fail to develop the skills they need to be good readers in the long run.
May says this could explain his latest research findings. “If you don’t develop those decoding skills, you’ll fall behind, even though you look like you’re in first grade.”
He said the results could also be explained by the fact that about 40% of students who received a reading recovery received no further intervention after first grade. “Because kids didn’t get the intervention they needed in second and third grade, they lost those benefits,” May said. “I think that’s a reasonable guess.”
But the study also found that all students who were in reading recovery were more likely to receive extra help to read after first grade than the comparative group. Advocates of Reading Recovery have justified the high cost of the program – estimated at $ 10,271 per student – saying that the program reduces the need for further reading interventions.
This new research comes at a time when schools and states are looking for ways to help students recover from epidemic barriers, including barriers to lesson development. May’s results are something for policymakers and school leaders to consider as they decide which programs to invest in.