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Reading Recovery

Essa Rating
No. Studies
No. Students
Average Effect Size

Program Description

A chief goal of Reading Recovery is to identify first-grade students who, after one year of formal schooling, are struggling with beginning reading and are achieving within the lowest 20-30% of their cohort. Specially trained teachers provide these lowest achieving students daily 30-minute lessons that include fluency instruction, letter and word identification skills, phonemic and orthographic awareness instruction, reading a new, challenging book with scaffolded teacher support,  and daily progress monitoring of independent oral reading. There are two possible outcomes, both positive: students either reach average levels of reading and writing within 20 weeks, or if they do not respond well, they can then be more reliably referred on for additional testing and possible placement in a more intensive instructional setting. Teachers work with four students individually for two and one half hours each school day (about 8-10 students over the school year) and in some other instructional role for the rest of the school day.  On average, each teacher works with about 42 students each school year in their combined roles.

Program Outcomes

Reading Recovery has been evaluated in four qualifying studies (many other studies did not qualify because they only reported outcomes for successful students, or used developer-made measures). In comparison to control groups, the average effect size across the four studies was +0.43 on measures such as ITBS, CAT, Woodcock, and Gates. These outcomes qualify Reading Recovery for the ESSA “Strong” category, and for the “Solid Outcomes” rating (at least two studies with effect sizes of at least +0.20).

Staffing Requirements

Staffing at the school level

Teachers need to be able to teach four individual 30-minute lessons each day in addition to their other roles within the school. These teachers may be kindergarten or primary-grade teachers, Title I teachers, intervention specialists, teachers of ELL or special education, or literacy coaches and administrators. Staffing depends on level of need in a school and as such may change slightly from year to year and vary from school to school. A useful estimate to plan staffing is to expect between 20-30% of the first grade population to need Reading Recovery.  Reading Recovery should not be a teacher’s assignment for the entire school day.

Staff at the district or consortium level

Teachers are required to affiliate with a Reading Recovery teacher leader who is employed by a school district and provides initial training and ongoing professional development to teachers. One teacher leader may work with about 42 teachers; the teachers may all be from one school district or from multiple school districts.

Professional Development/Training

Teachers must successfully complete a yearlong graduate level course taught by a teacher leader for which university credit is received. Teacher leaders must successfully complete up to five graduate level courses offered over two semesters in an academic year by a Reading Recovery trainer at a registered university training site. Course work may be taken in-residence or with some combination of distance and face-to-face course work.


No technology requirement unless the training is being offered with a combination of distance and face to face experiences.

Student lessons do not have a technology requirement.