Educators lobby for ‘Reading Recovery’

Published 10:38 am Wednesday, June 15, 2011

JACKSON — The Northampton County Board of Education heard from several individuals with concerns about the possibility of discontinuing Reading Recovery in the school system.

At their recent regular meeting, board members heard from representatives with the program that helps the lowest achieving first graders as well as Northampton teachers who say they have observed the benefits of Reading Recovery.

The short-term tutoring intervention program’s goal is to promote literacy skills, reduce the number of first-grade, students who are struggling to read and prevent long-term reading difficulties. Reading Recovery targets the lowest achieving (bottom 20 percent) first graders in the school system.

“A typical day (for) a Reading Recovery teacher would be to serve four one-on-one children, the lowest in the first grade with individually designed lessons to meet their specific needs,” said Edenton-Chowan Reading Recovery Teacher Leader Pam MacLagan. “In that day they would also serve 15 children in a literacy group. These children also have been struggling readers and having difficulty in the literacy process.”

MacLagan said the data is clear that the program is working in Northampton County Schools.

According to MacLagan, in each of the district’s elementary schools 32 students were served individually with one-on-one lessons and of that number 30 reached grade level proficiency. The two students that did not meet grade level were recommended for further assessment.

“In the K-1 literacy group in Northampton County, 62 children were served (and) 50 of those children reach grade level proficiency, twelve children did not and those children will be followed next year in second grade in a literacy group,” she said.

MacLagan said in education today the one vital thing lacking is passion.

“The Reading Recovery teachers at Northampton have the passion, they know that they are making a difference in the life of a child,” she said. “Not only do they have the passion, but they have the knowledge; they spend a year training. I venture to say that these four teachers know more about the reading process than any other teacher in your county, ‘cause I trained them.”

Norma Jo Drewette also expanded on the data regarding Reading Recovery, passing out a packet to board members, and how the program correlates to the new common course standards.

Drewette noted that Reading Recovery brings 75 percent of students with full intervention to the average performance of their grade level.

Faye Young spoke to the board about the Reading Recovery grant funded through $56 million in funds, $46 million of which was provided by the U.S. Department of Education and $10 million by the private sector.

Young said the grant will provide training of 3,750 new teachers nationwide over the next five years.

“Because of this initiative the University of North Carolina at Wilmington will train 50 new Reading Recovery teachers a year for the next five years, starting with the 2011-12 school year,” she said.

Young noted Northampton already has four trained teachers and Title 1-Part A is used over 50 percent of the time to fund Reading Recovery positions.

She added that The National Center on Response to Intervention (NCRTI), funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office on Special Education Programs, listed the program on its intervention site and reported large gains in a published journal.

“We wonder why Northampton County Schools will be discontinuing a program that the United States Department of Education and the NCRTI are implementing as innovative and researched based proven effective?” she said. “It’s just food for thought.”

NCS Kindergarten teacher Dawn Lesney said she has seen the benefits of Reading Recovery.

She spoke about a student who didn’t like to read and whose opinion was swayed by the program, which focused on his likes.

“He is now an avid reader thanks to Reading Recovery, thanks to the one-on-one,” she said.

Another of Lesney’s students had several struggles in addition to his reading skills and who is now earning 80 percent on chapter tests.

“Reading Recovery works. Northampton County says we are a leader in education, Northampton County says our children come first,” she said. “Keep Reading Recovery, it’s there for our kids—they need it.”

Squire Elementary first grade teacher Janice Miller also urged school district leaders to keep the program.

Miller said she had two students in particular that benefited from Reading Recovery and she had also experienced first-hand as a teacher how “amazing” the program is.

One of her students began the program at Level 1 and finished at Level 30, which is grade level.

“With Ms. Young’s guidance, she came in and told me how to transition into the classroom and use some of the skills they had,” she said. “He (the student) didn’t stop at that, he finished out in Dibbles, our reading based program.”

Miller said after her experience with Reading Recovery, she has become a big advocate for the program.

“They say they help out four (students) a day, but they don’t, they service way more, because they help out the teachers and make sure we have that knowledge they have,” she said.