Training for Reading Recovery teachers is a yearlong period of change as teachers learn to make decisions based on a child’s responses during individual teaching sessions.
A highly qualified teacher makes a difference in student outcomes, especially for children having difficulties. Reading Recovery’s professional development is widely acclaimed as an investment in the professional skills of teachers and a model worth emulating (Herman & Stringfield, 1997).
School districts select Reading Recovery teacher candidates who must be certified teachers with a record of successful teaching experience with young children. These teachers engage in a full academic year of professional development with graduate credit under the guidance of a registered Reading Recovery teacher leader.
Following an intensive week of assessment training to learn to administer, score, and interpret the Observation Survey (Clay 2002, 2005), the teachers actively participate in weekly classes (biweekly in Canada) while applying their learning by teaching four children individually on a daily basis. Reading Recovery teachers work only part of the school day in one-to-one Reading Recovery lessons. Their professional development also benefits their work in other settings (e.g., classrooms, small groups, work with special populations of children, literacy coaches).
The teacher leader makes at least four visits (five in Canada) during the school year to each teacher-in-training to observe lessons and to consult about children and implementation in the school. Detailed information about teacher selection and professional development requirements for teachers is found in the standards and guidelines for the United States and for Canada.
Integrating theory and practice
Reading Recovery teacher training is comprehensive, complex, and intensive because each teacher must learn to design and deliver individual daily lessons. No prescriptive manual or packaged set of materials can meet each child’s individual needs.
Teachers must learn to
systematically and regularly assess each child’s current understandings.
closely observe and record behaviors for evidence of progress.
use teaching procedures competently and appropriately.
put their observations and analyses into words and articulate their questions and challenges.
self-analyze teaching decisions to determine the effect on each child’s learning.
tailor interactions to extend each child’s understandings.
communicate about Reading Recovery within the school.
communicate regularly with the classroom teacher about each child’s progress in both settings.
Professional development in Reading Recovery consistently integrates theory and practice. All teachers teach lessons behind a one-way mirror, enabling their colleagues to observe, discuss, and reflect on the teaching and learning. In addition to putting what they see into words, they articulate conflicts with their previous assumptions. They learn to analyze and discuss effective teaching and to apply new understandings to their own teaching.
A striking match with research findings on professional development
Reading Recovery professional development for teachers closely mirrors current research findings (see Darling-Hammond & Richardson, 2009).
Useful professional development emphasizes active teaching, assessment, observation, and reflection.
Effective professional development enables teachers to acquire new knowledge, apply it to practice, and reflect on the results with colleagues.
Professional development that focuses on student learning and helps teachers develop the necessary pedagogical skills has strong positive effects on practice.
Research supports professional development that is intensive, sustained over time, collaborative, and collegial.
Built-in professional development
After their initial year of professional development, Reading Recovery teachers participate in a minimum of six sessions (eight in Canada) each year with their colleagues and teacher leader(s). At least four sessions (five in Canada) involve observing lessons through a one-way mirror while talking about child behaviors and teaching moves. This ongoing professional development system ensures continuous inquiry and teacher learning to support student outcomes.
Clay, M.M. (2002, 2005). An observation survey of early literacy achievement (2nd ed., rev. 2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Darling-Hammond, L., & Richardson, N. (2009). Teacher learning: What matters? Educational Leadership, 66(5), 46–53.
Herman, R., & Stringfield. S. (1997). Ten promising programs for educating all children: Evidence of impact. Arlington, VA: Educational Research Service.