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Reading Recovery research studies reviewed by USDE funded agencies

Three national agencies funded through the U.S. Department of Education have reviewed Reading Recovery research studies using rigorous standards. These agencies include the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), the National Center on Response to Intervention (NCRTI), and most recently, the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII). Though each agency reports evaluations using different categories, all require experimental (randomized controlled trial) or quasi-experimental studies as evidence of effectiveness.


What Works Clearinghouse (WWC)
Funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, the WWC is “a central and trusted source of scientific evidence for what works in education” and publishes intervention reports that assess research on beginning reading programs. WWC evaluations translate effect sizes from research into improvement index scores to reflect the average change in a student’s percentile rank that can be expected if the student has the intervention. 

In 2007, 2008, and in July 2013, the WWC examined research on Reading Recovery and accepted studies that met its evidence standards. Reading Recovery received positive or potentially positive ratings across all four domains: alphabetics (phonics and phonemic awareness), fluency, comprehension, and general reading achievement. Among all programs reviewed, Reading Recovery received the highest rating in general reading achievement. Read the full intervention report.


National Center on Response to Intervention (NCRTI)
NCRTI is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs to provide technical assistance for states and districts to help them implement proven models for response to intervention (RTI) and early intervention services. Research studies were reviewed and rated in two broad categories—study quality and effect size. Each category includes a detailed description of how the rating was defined. In 2010, NCRTI listed Reading Recovery on its instructional intervention tools chart and reported large gains based on a 2005 study by Robert Schwartz. Other Reading Recovery research studies included Center, Wheldall, Freeman, Outhred, & McNaught (1995), and Iversen & Tunmer (1993). 

In 2011, NCRTI also awarded high ratings for the survey tool central to Reading Recovery’s evaluation and instruction. An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement received highest possible ratings for scientific rigor and is posted on the screening tools chart. The Observation Survey is used not only in Reading Recovery, but is also widely used by classroom and specialist teachers and researchers. 


National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII)
Funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, NCII reviews research on intensive instructional interventions “with evidence of efficacy for improving outcomes for students whose performance is unsatisfactory in the core program.” NCII’s purpose is to “support educators in using data-based individualization as they implement intensive interventions in reading, mathematics, and behavior for K-12 students.” The center developed its own research criteria for its Academic Intervention Tools Chart resource, with evidence rated in four broad categories: study quality, effect size, intensity, and additional research. 

In fall 2012, the NCII Technical Review Committee reviewed Reading Recovery research and listed three Reading Recovery studies—Center, Wheldall, Freeman, Outhred, & McNaught (1995), Iversen & Tunmer (1993), and Schwartz (2005). Several studies show large effect size for Reading Recovery students. 

To review Reading Recovery’s report, go to the Academic Intervention Tools Chart. Locate the four category tabs on the left just above the chart. Select each tab, then scroll down to find the three Reading Recovery studies and click on the title of each study for more information. Select the “Effect Size” tab to view the large effect sizes for Reading Recovery studies.