Long-term follow-up study of ex-Reading Recovery students

Results of a study comparing the reading and comprehension levels of ex-Reading Recovery children in fifth and sixth grade show that they scored significantly higher than a comparison
group. One hundred twenty-one students who had Reading Recovery intervention at age six were compared to a group of children drawn from the same classes, who at age six had better literacy skills and did not require intervention. Mean scores five years later revealed that ex-Reading Recovery students were more than a year ahead of the comparison
students in reading skills.

Previous research into the long-term effects of Reading Recovery has been positive. Early trials of the program indicate that gains were maintained three years after intervention; children continued to perform within the average range for reading and writing.

Other studies show that the quality of the intervention is the key factor. One study of three interventions — Reading Recovery with a fully trained teacher, a Reading Recovery-like program taught by less-intensively trained teachers, and one-to-one tutoring in reading — revealed very different outcomes. Only the group taught by a fully trained Reading Recovery teacher had lasting effects on reading achievement a year later.

In the current study, Maggie Moore, Newman College, Birmingham, England, and Barrie Wade, University of Birmingham, were able to identify Reading Recovery and non-intervention children five years later, from careful records kept by schools in Victoria, Australia, and Wellington, New Zealand. The same number of Reading Recovery and comparison students were identified in each class.

Each school was representative of its area. There was a diversity of urban and rural, industrial and agricultural, and housing varied from owned to government-provided. Schools were diverse ethnically and economically. All 13 schools in the study had good literacy resources, including specially equipped Reading Recovery rooms and well-constructed literacy policies. 

Only students who had completed the Reading Recovery program were compared to classmates without intervention. Reading Recovery students received intervention for an average of 16 weeks. The comparison group was made up of children from the same classes who did not receive help because they were not poor enough readers, although their scores in first grade were mainly average or below average for their class.

The case studies used in this research were intensive, requiring much time and cooperation
from students. Researchers used a mixture of quantitative and qualitative measures to assess children’s attitudes toward reading as well as their reading and comprehension skills. All children were tested with the Neale Analysis of Reading and Comprehension.

Program has lasting effects

Analysis of scores showed highly significant differences between the groups. Ex-Reading
Recovery students, on average, scored more than a year higher on reading and comprehension tests. Since their initial reading level was lower, the ex-Reading Recovery students had made even greater gains than these test results indicated.

Five years after intervention with the Reading Recovery program, the weakest group of
students had overtaken initially more able readers and performed better in both reading accuracy and comprehension. Therefore, the strategies taught in Reading Recovery for independent reading have had a lasting effect.

Moore and Wade point out that many students in both groups come from socially disadvantaged families, and, taken as a whole, still perform at somewhat lower levels than average for their age. However, the results of this carefully controlled study indicate that Reading Recovery teaching not only provides children with a firm foundation in reading, but helps them progress and develop in subsequent years.

“Reading and Comprehension: A Longitudinal Study of Ex-Reading Recovery Students,” Educational Studies, Volume 24, Number 2, July 1998, pp. 195-203.

Published in ERN September 1998 Volume 11 Number 6

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