RTI Principles

Reading Recovery: An Ideal Fit Within an RTI Framework

Administrators who have successfully embedded Reading Recovery into their comprehensive literacy plans know the goal of Reading Recovery matches the intent of RTI legislation to identify students whose academic achievement may need further monitoring, and to provide effective interventions for those who need them. They also recognize the close fit with eight crucial features of RTI, adapted from frameworks provided by the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities and the International Reading Association Commission on RTI.

Reading Recovery is a key component of a comprehensive plan for literacy learning.

RTI is not a new concept in literacy education. Administrators in Reading Recovery schools and systems echo the words of Marie Clay, developer of Reading Recovery, who called for education systems to solve two problems: How to deliver good first instruction in literacy and what kind of supplementary opportunity to provide for children who are low achieving in the classroom’s good instructional program (Clay, 1996).

In addition to the priorities given to classroom literacy approaches, administrators recognize the need for early intervention for children having difficulty with literacy learning. As a key element of a comprehensive literacy plan, Reading Recovery is an effective research-based intervention and an exemplary professional development model. Highly qualified Reading Recovery teachers

  • provide a successful early intervention,
  • document response to intervention, and
  • work collaboratively with other teachers to develop comprehensive support for children.

Regardless of the ‘tiered’ or ‘layered’ frameworks used by schools or districts, Reading Recovery must be available as soon as possible for first graders with the greatest difficulties.

Clay, M. M. (1996). Is Reading Recovery aligned with a specific approach? Council Connections, 2(1), 1.

Reading Recovery provides universal screening for first graders.

In Reading Recovery, screening is a two-part process. First, classroom teachers rank all students according to their current literacy competencies. Then, the lowest literacy achievers are tested using An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement (Clay, 2002, 2005, 2016) comprised of six authentic, valid, and reliable literacy tasks. Children with the lowest screening scores are selected for the Reading Recovery intervention. The Observation Survey also informs initial teaching decisions by providing information about each child’s current literacy behaviors.

Clay, M. M. (2002, 2005, 2016). An observation survey of early literacy achievement. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Reading Recovery has the strongest research base of any early literacy intervention reviewed by the What Works Clearinghouse.

The U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) reports that Reading Recovery has the strongest research base of any early reading intervention reviewed by the WWC (2008, 2013). Numerous experimental studies and national Reading Recovery data collected on every child validate the effectiveness of the intervention. Evaluation studies report positive outcomes for English language learners as well as minority and low-income students. Follow-up studies support the long-term effectiveness of Reading Recovery. (See the Research Section of the RRCNA website.)

What Works Clearinghouse (2008, December 2). Beginning reading intervention report: Reading Recovery. United States Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.

Reading Recovery provides an exemplar for professional development; teacher expertise is a hallmark of the intervention.

Administrators in Reading Recovery implementations recognize the importance of expertise for all teachers, but particularly for those working with struggling beginning readers and writers. They place emphasis on a skillful teacher who can focus on the needs of a particular child rather than yielding to the simplicity of scripted programs.

Reading Recovery provides an exemplar for professional development, with year-long initial training and ongoing professional development sessions. Reading Recovery teachers and leaders use their expertise in their other roles and in school and district literacy initiatives. Some university training centers are working with Reading Recovery teacher training sites to offer professional development to intervention specialists, special education teachers, and classroom teachers.

As with Reading Recovery, this professional development focuses on lessons designed for individual children.

Reading Recovery teachers use a problem-solving approach, building on a child’s strengths and guided by ongoing observation data.

Reading Recovery’s “one-on-one tutoring by qualified tutors for at-risk readers” meets the U.S. Department of Education’s gold standard of research to determine what works. Contingent, responsive teaching requires the teacher to make decisions based on each child’s immediate context and knowledge (McEneaney, Lose, & Schwartz, 2006). Compelling student outcomes in English and in Spanish, across racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and for English language learners validate the effectiveness of responsive and differentiated teaching in Reading Recovery.

Administrators in Reading Recovery schools look for interventions to help individual children build strategies that will transfer to independent learning in the classroom, rather than relying on packaged programs. They know that Reading Recovery’s problem-solving approach — building on a child’s strengths and guided by ongoing observation data — meets this goal.

McEneaney, J., Lose, M. K., & Schwartz, R. M. (2006). A transactional perspective on reading difficulties and response to intervention. Reading Research Quarterly, 41(1), 117–128.

Reading Recovery has a built-in system for monitoring the progress of each child including daily and weekly records of change over time.

In addition to continuous monitoring of students’ classroom progress, each child’s progress during intervention must be monitored in order to make necessary modifications. Administrators face challenges when making decisions about ways to monitor progress during interventions. But Reading Recovery has a built-in comprehensive system for monitoring the progress of each child including daily and weekly records of change over time in text reading, writing, vocabulary, word and letter work.

Reading Recovery teachers maintain regular communication with classroom teachers about each child’s progress and serve on school literacy teams. Reading Recovery teacher leaders provide support for problem solving about a child making slow progress and check records for each child periodically. The Observation Survey is used on entry and exit to monitor the response to the intervention.

Reading Recovery fidelity is assured through Standards and Guidelines, intensive year-long training, and annual evaluation of outcomes.

Administrators want to know that an intervention is consistently administered as intended.

Reading Recovery ensures fidelity of implementation, through:

  • a published set of Standards and Guidelines,
  • an annual registry that verifies compliance with standards,
  • intensive year-long training and ongoing professional development for all Reading Recovery professionals,
  • annual evaluation of outcomes for every child by the International Data Evaluation Center, and
  • analysis of outcome and process data by university trainers.
Reading Recovery has an established system of collaboration to meet the needs of children.

A core feature of an RTI approach is collaboration across general education, special education, and compensatory education. Strong administrative support is needed at the district and school level to ensure a coordinated RTI plan.

Reading Recovery schools strive to achieve the notion that “every student belongs to everyone,” encouraging district and campus decision-making teams to build collaborative goals and action plans. RTI teams should include members with literacy expertise; Reading Recovery professionals are valuable members of these teams.

Reading Recovery has an established system of collaboration to meet the needs of children:

  • Ongoing and often informal conversations with classroom teachers about individual children
  • Team meetings (for progress monitoring, problem solving, and decision making)
  • Reading Recovery teachers observing children in classroom settings
  • Classroom teachers observing Reading Recovery lessons
  • Sharing valuable diagnostic teaching records for Reading Recovery children who are ultimately referred for special education assessment