Reading Recovery Is Changing
Lives in Sarasota County Schools
By Lisa Fisher, Sarasota County Schools
Click here for a video of Reading Recovery in action.
will now be broken!”
Every once in a while, you hear something that
communicates the importance of great teaching, visionary philanthropy, and a
community that cares. This comment came from the mom of a high school student
and a first-grader—both of whom started last school year as struggling readers.
For the high-schooler, the challenge will continue. But the first-grade
student, who entered the new Reading Recovery program at Tuttle Elementary
School, is now reading at grade level and will continue to do so going forward.
Reading Recovery is a highly effective, short-term,
early intervention for first-grade students having difficulty with reading and
writing. Individual students work one-to-one with a specially trained teacher
for an average of 12 to 20 weeks, receiving daily 30-minute lessons. As soon as
students can meet grade-level expectations and demonstrate that they can
continue to work independently in the classroom, their lessons are
discontinued, and new students begin individual instruction. After a full series
of lessons, an average of 75 percent of students achieve at grade-level
The program’s arrival to Sarasota County was the
vision of philanthropists Keith and Linda Monda, who partnered with Gulf Coast
Community Foundation and the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation to
initiate the program at Atwater, Cranberry, and Tuttle elementary schools
during the 2015-16 school year. Thanks to their continued generous donations,
as well as additional support from Gulf Coast donors Bob and Lin Williams,
Frank and Jaclyn Brunckhorst, and others, the program will be expanded to
include all 10 Title I elementary
schools in Sarasota County this school year.
Results—in Weeks, Not Years
Reading Recovery was developed in the 1970s by a
New Zealand educator, Marie Clay, and implemented in the United States through
The Ohio State University. Nationally, it has been introduced in many states,
but Sarasota County’s is the only current implementation in Florida. (Unlike
the roll-out in other locations, Reading Recovery has been brought to our
community without additional funding, using philanthropy, expertise, and
partnership to ensure adequate resources and success.)
Results are consistent across 30 years and include
more than 2.2 million Reading Recovery students. More than 100 research studies
have documented Reading Recovery’s benefits for students and schools.
The research also shows—and our local experience
confirms—that the best investment to achieve these results is expert teachers.
Teachers trained in Reading Recovery know what to do, why it works, and how to
adjust their teaching based on a child’s capabilities as well as his or her
needs. The program’s year-long training, as well as ongoing professional
development, incorporates both theory and practice. Reading Recovery teachers
achieve unparalleled results because their training experience includes daily
work with students, peer-to-peer evaluation, and graduate-level classes,
offered in our community in partnership with the University of South Florida.
“I can do anything!”
This past year, six Sarasota County teachers
entered into the training, while I participated in extensive training as the
district’s Reading Recovery Teacher Leader. Next year, 15 more teachers will
join this effort in order to meet the needs of all Title I schools. Said one of
the initial teachers: “My experiences throughout this school year in Reading
Recovery have been the most professionally challenging, meaningful, and
rewarding of my teaching career. The privilege of helping our youngest learners
have confidence in their developing abilities is priceless. As one of my first students
shared: ‘Now that I can read, I can do anything!’”
Unlike most intervention programs, which are
remedial and reactive, Reading Recovery is proactive and preventative. Founder
Marie Clay described it quite poetically when she said, “Individual help is
given not to overcome failure but, to use a different metaphor, to provide
extra fertilizer to bring the crop on a little faster before the winter of
failure sets in.” How powerful it would be if all schools, all teachers, took
Clay’s constructive view while scaffolding children in a flexible,
individualized, yet accelerated path to success.
is the Reading Recovery Teacher Leader and an instructional facilitator for
Sarasota County Schools.