In my travels recently, doing workshops about supporting struggling readers, I’ve had several conversations about the loss of funding for Reading Recovery. Teachers from North Carolina, New Hampshire, and even one from Halifax, Nova Scotia told me how much they value what they learned as Reading Recovery teachers, how much it has helped those children who are most at risk for learning to read in grade 1, how powerfully the Reading Recovery program has influenced their school, and so on. Yet, these teachers also reported that their funding has been cut and they’ve been moved into other positions. I’m still scratching my head trying to make sense of this.
Whole districts, counties, and states have done away with Reading Recovery. What in the world were they thinking? We know Reading Recovery has powerful results as an early intervention model, just check out the What Works Clearinghouse. Also keep in mind that RTI suggests not only quality classroom instruction, but also extra small group support on the next tier, and one-on-one help for students who still need additional support. ALL OF THESE PIECES are crucial. We can’t keep trading one for another.
I heard Richard Allington say (at an IRA conference a few years ago) that we KNOW how to help struggling readers; we KNOW what early intervention support is supposed to look like; and we even have enough money to do so. We are just NOT spending our money in the right ways. At this conference and in an article he wrote for Ed Leadership, he talks about what one-on-one help and small group support should look like. He also mentions what doesn’t work. He definitely sees the knowledge level of the teacher as a major important factor. I cringe when I visit schools where I see a parent volunteer or untrained assistant working with the most at-risk students out in the hall.
One reason I heard for why Reading Recovery has been cut in many places has been that it was replaced with LLI kits. Principals have said, “Why have a teacher working with one student when she can be working with three at a time?” I am sure Fountas and Pinnell (who developed the LLI kits) did NOT intend for this to happen.
So what happened in these places? Who is to blame? Did administrators break under pressure from above and not defend Reading Recovery in their buildings? Is there a relationship between Reading Recovery getting cut and the Common Core coming in? Did the money that used to fund Reading Recovery get spent on test prep materials? Did Reading Recovery teachers themselves not help enough to ensure that others understood its necessity? Did Fountas and Pinnell not make it clear enough what LLI kits were for?