Reading Recovery Through Heartland AEA Has High Impact on Students, Educators and Schools


Reading Recovery teachers who participated in training for the last school year. Back Row: Lori Lyon, Des Moines Reading Recovery Teacher Leader; Micheala Graham, North Polk CSD; Lynn McIntire, Urbandle CSD; Jenny Jones, Adel-DeSoto-Minburn CSD; and Sue Hayes Heartland AEA Teacher Leader. Front Row: Sara Kieffer-Kizzier, Urbandle CSD; Stacey King, St. Francis School; and Ami Schulz, Earlham CSD

Literacy is often regarded as the cornerstone of learning. With this in mind, much stress has been put on educators and agencies to increase reading proficiency scores among students.

Heartland AEA has sought to meet these demands in central Iowa in part with the Reading Recovery program. Reading Recovery targets lower performing first grade students giving them a series of interventions over a short period of time to increase their reading proficiency. As an approved Reading Recovery site, Heartland AEA contracts with local districts and schools to provide training for teacher certification.

Reading Recovery certification is highly intensive. Teachers attend a weeklong class in August and then 30 weekly three-hour training classes throughout the school year. The certification also involves in-class observations of which Susan Hayes, Heartland AEA Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, visits teachers-in-training throughout the year and provides ongoing professional development and advice.

“The year long training gives the teachers a deep understanding of the literacy processing theory of learning to read books and write messages,” Hayes said. “They learn procedures and concepts for providing children who are struggling with learning to read and write an opportunity to accelerate to the average of their classroom.”

The teachers learn how to hold effective sessions with identified low-achieving first graders. Students meet one-to-one with the teacher for 30 minutes each school day for 12-20 weeks. During the session, the student is taught strategies that enable him to become an independent reader and writer. When the student can read at grade-level and demonstrate that he can work independently, the sessions are successfully discontinued.

The program is highly effective in providing positive outcomes for students. According to Heartland AEA’s 2012 Reading Recovery Site Report, approximately 71% of students who complete the full 20-week intervention meet grade-level expectations in reading and writing. Follow-up studies indicate that most Reading Recovery students also do well on standardized tests and maintain their gains in later years.

Teachers trained in the 2011-2012 school year noticed an impact on the students who received the service.

“It’s amazing to think that in August, some of my children did not understand that books have print,” an area teacher said. “Now they are picking up books, reading, using strategies to solve the unknown and getting meaning out of the stories they read.”

“Their (the students’) reading vocabulary has greatly improved. They are more focused during read-to-self time,” another classroom teacher commented. “We discuss our students in PLC (Professional Learning Community) time and collaboratively work to make skill groups for specific children.”

Studies have shown that participating districts and schools see significant long-term savings through reductions in grade retentions, remedial services and special education placements. The impact on teaching and learning is also huge. Trained Reading Recovery teachers often provide assistance to children in other classrooms and become literacy resource experts in their buildings.

“The Reading Recovery teachers have great ideas, knowledge and insight that helps me change my teaching and make it better for what my students need,” an area teacher said.

“While (Reading Recovery) has been an important part of learning to read for the students exposed to the program, it is only through the quality of the collaborative work of the Reading Recovery teacher that the program has had the deeper impact on our building,” an area school administrator said.

Reading Recovery training at Heartland AEA began in 1996. Since then, 136 teachers have been trained. Currently 43 teachers in 15 districts receive support. For more information, click here for the Heartland AEA 2012 Reading Recovery Site Report.

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