The New South Wales Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) has released a new study into the use of the ‘Reading Recovery’ intervention programme with Year 1 students.
You may recall the publication earlier this year of a large-scale, randomised controlled trial of Reading Recovery which seemed to provide strong evidence in its favour. I criticised this study at the time and the CESE report echoes some of these criticisms, as well as concerns about the attrition rate.
The CESE study chose to follow matched students who were either in schools that offered Reading Recovery or schools that did not. Researchers also looked at the reading performance of these students in Year 3. The official CESE newsletter summarises the findings as follows:
“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.”
The importance of this finding should not escape those with a view of the wider context. For instance, Researchers in New Zealand have argued that a reliance on Reading Recovery is responsible for that country’s ‘failed’ national literacy strategy.
It is also worth noting that the theoretical basis for Reading Recovery has attracted much criticism, particularly for the limited use of phonics and the reliance on the kind of multiple cuing strategies that were criticised in the influential Rose report.
So it doesn’t work in theory and it doesn’t work in practice either.