Elementary Schools

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.

“The cycle 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 standards.

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.

Measurable 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.

Lisa Fisher is the Reading Recovery Teacher Leader and an instructional facilitator for Sarasota County Schools.

Elementary Schools
Laura Kingsley, Executive Director

Brian Collins, Administrative Assistant

Phone: 941-927-9000, ext. 31106
Fax: 941-361-6173
1960 Landings Boulevard
Sarasota, Florida 34231
Green 3rd Floor

1/23/2017 - Restorative Strategies Training for Middle School Counselors

1/23/2017 - IB Night - RHS

1/24/2017 - STEM Fair Judging Schedule (grades 3-5) at Robarts Arena

1/24/2017 - 2nd Annual Sarasota County STEM Fair Expo at Robarts Arena

1/26/2017 - Sarasota Middle Showcase

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