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Myth #9 -- Short-term tutoring forstruggling readers can get them caught up with their peers, and the gainswill be sustained

One of the most common programsused in schools in this country is "Reading Recovery."  This programinvolves having a highly trained teacher pull students out of the classroomfor short, intensive, one-on-one instruction sessions.  After a fewweeks of this intensive intervention, the students are exited from theprogram, and they resume normal classroom activities.  While ReadingRecovery is a "brand name" that is handy to use as an example, it's prevalencereflects an underlying belief that this sort of intervention will be effective,and that the gains that children experience will be sustained when theyreturn to the normal classroom.

In fact, it is evident that suchgains as are made by children in these programs (and even those gains arequestionable) are not sustained for very long once they are exited fromthe program.  Studies of these pull-out tutoring programs have shownthat children who are not thriving like their peers in the classroom continueto fail to thrive when they are placed back in that classroom full time. This suggests that there is something about the classroom environment thatis not supporting and scaffolding these children as they learn to read.

Studies have shown that the besthope for these children is to place them with a "strong" reading teacherfull time -- a teacher who has a sophisticated understanding of the processof learning to read, a tendency to use assessment data to inform individualizedinstruction, and a talent for engaging students in focused and interestinginstructional activities.

Once again, we see that the rightanswer is the hard answer (see Myth #3); the solution for helping strugglingreaders to become successful readers is to cultivate a population of teacherswho are very knowledgeable about how children learn to read, and who areadept at applying their understanding of reading acquisition to the assessmentand instruction of individual children.

Perhaps instead of having our mosthighly trained and knowledgeable reading teachers pulling students outof class for individual tutoring, a better use of their time would be tomake them responsible for providing on-going professional development andcoaching for the other teachers on staff  so that all of the teacherscan develop expertise in reading theory and reading instruction.


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Last Updated 8-7-03