Reading Recovery: a sector-wide analysis
This report was originally published 14 December 2015.
This Learning Curve briefly describes the results of an evaluation examining the impact of Reading Recovery (RR) on students’ outcomes in NSW government schools. The results showed some evidence that RR has a modest short-term effect on reading skills among the lowest performing students. However, RR does not appear to be an effective intervention for students that begin Year 1 with more proficient literacy skills. In the longer-term, there was no evidence of any positive effects of RR on students’ reading performance in Year 3.
Objectives of the Current Study
While the balance of the evidence suggests that RR is an effective intervention for raising student literacy levels, most evaluations of RR have been conducted outside Australia. This raises the question of whether RR is equally effective in the NSW context. Second, the extant evidence has not resolved the issues raised by critics regarding the effectiveness of RR for low performing students. Research that carefully accounts for student baseline achievement is needed to assess whether RR is differentially effective for students at low versus high starting points. Finally, the long-term sustainability of the results achieved by RR has not been rigorously addressed in the existing literature.
The primary aims of the current study were to examine the impact of RR on students’ literacy outcomes and whether any benefits associated with participating in RR are sustained over the longer term. This evaluation was conducted at the sector-level (state-wide across NSW government schools) and focussed on identifying the impact of RR on student outcomes compared to similar students who attended a school that did not offer RR. An important objective of the current study was to determine whether there was a relationship between students’ literacy skills prior to Year 1 and the effectiveness of RR.
The two key research questions addressed in this evaluation were:
- What is the impact of RR on students’ literacy progress at the end of Year 1?
- Are any benefits of RR sustained to Year 3?
Summary and Implications
The results from the current analysis provide some evidence that RR is an effective short-term intervention for remediating Reading Text skills among the lowest performing students. However, RR does not appear to be an effective intervention for students who begin Year 1 with more proficient literacy skills, at least compared to other interventions or initiatives that are available in non-RR schools. The implication of these findings is that, currently, the most cost-effective method of implementing RR in NSW may be to target only the students performing at the lowest levels at the end of Kindergarten (at a sector- not a school-level) or to restrict RR to schools that are identified as having a high number of students who are not meeting performance benchmarks in Kindergarten or early Year 1. The limitations of this analysis also highlight the strong need to collect better information on the teaching practices and interventions being offered in non-RR schools and to develop valid and reliable measures of students’ literacy progress throughout the early years of school.