Thanks to NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, the deeply entrenched, multi-million dollar Reading Recovery program will no longer be sacrosanct in NSW public schools. As of next year, the funding allocated to Reading Recovery will be unlocked and schools will be able to use this money for other more effective intervention programs to help students with reading difficulties.
This decision has been a long time coming. The NSW Department of Education was given strong advice 20 years ago by Professor Kevin Wheldall that Reading Recovery does not work very well. His report was swept under the carpet but, in recent years, evidence against Reading Recovery has become impossible to ignore.
A large study published by the NSW government’s own evaluation centre found that students who had been in the Reading Recovery program were less likely to be at the expected reading level at the end of Year 1 than matched students who had not done Reading Recovery. The same study found that Year 3 NAPLAN scores of Reading Recovery students were worse than non-Reading Recovery students. Similar results have been found in the US, UK and New Zealand.
Credit is due to Minister Piccoli, who no doubt met a lot of resistance from Reading Recovery devotees. Sadly, thousands of children have been poorly served by Reading Recovery over the last two decades, and many Catholic schools remain committed to the program. Hopefully, they too will soon see the light.
Dr Jennifer Buckingham is a Senior Research Fellow and Director of the FIVE from FIVE reading project at The Centre for Independent Studies
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