Up until third grade, children are learning to read. After that, they read to learn. So what happens when a child reaches elementary school but is already not making progress at their grade level? Gulf Coast helped introduce Reading Recovery into Sarasota County Schools to ensure that such students could quickly catch up to their classmates.
Over 40 percent of third-grade students here in the Gulf Coast region are not able to read at grade level. Not only does this set them behind their peers, but it also sets our region behind. With more than 80 percent of those who can’t read at grade level coming from low-income families, the problem undermines efforts to end intergenerational poverty, close achievement gaps, and reduce high school dropout rates. The long-term consequences are significant, for these individual children and for their communities.
Reading Recovery is a proactive, preventative, and proven intervention to help students who struggle the most 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, their lessons are discontinued, and new students begin instruction.
Results for this international program across 30 years and more than 2.2 million students consistently show its benefits for students and schools:
75% of students achieve at grade-level standards after a full series of lessons
the best investment to achieve these results is expert teachers
The arrival of Reading Recovery in Sarasota County was the vision of Keith D. Monda, who helped fund national implementation of the program through the Ohio State University. The partnership with Gulf Coast and Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation enabled the school district to initiate the program at three Title 1 elementary schools in 2015—Atwater and Cranberry in North Port, and Tuttle in Sarasota. During the pilot year, 85% of participating students reached average grade levels following the full complement of lessons.
Investing in Teachers
Extensive research shows—and our local experience confirms—that teachers trained in Reading Recovery are the best investment. They know what to do, why it works, and how to adjust to each child’s capabilities.
“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!’”
With support from the original investors and additional Gulf Coast donors, 15 more teachers joined the effort in 2016-17 to meet the needs of all 10 Title I schools in Sarasota County. During that school year, 86 percent of the 139 students who received a full intervention reached average grade levels of reading and writing.
Encouraged by that success and recognizing that many students in non-Title I schools also would benefit from the program, Gulf Coast, the school district and Barancik Foundation have continued to fund district-wide implementation of Reading Recovery each year since.
A Virtual Shift
The 2019-2020 school year encountered a sudden shift to virtual learning in March due to the pandemic. This, understandably, brought much anxiety, uncertainty, and logistical challenges for the program. Thanks to our resilient Reading Recovery teachers, Administrators, students, and donors, the program was able to carry on. A total of 272 Reading Recovery students received virtual instruction from March through May, for a total of 4,025 lessons in all! Read their stories here.
The Entire School Benefits
The impact of Sarasota’s Reading Recovery teachers reaches far beyond the students who receive direct lessons.
While their mornings are dedicated to one-on-one Reading Recovery instruction, the school district's highly trained Reading Recovery teachers work with other students in the afternoon as school-based literacy experts. They also train fellow teachers, who can bring the program’s proven techniques to even more students. Gulf Coast and our partners further leveraged the investment in teacher training by creating a summer reading program—Kids READ—that stipends Reading Recovery teachers to work with students at local summer camps. This outreach helps children avoid “summer slide” and prepare to enter or return to school ready to learn.