Pinnell response to Investor’s Business Daily article
April 9, 1999
Investor’s Business Daily
Letter to the Editor
12655 Beatrice Street
Los Angeles, CA 90066
To the Editor:
Your April 1 editorial, “When Education Theories Go Bad,” claims that Columbus is turning to Sylvan Learning Systems because Reading Recovery has failed. Wrong – on this count and many others.
First, Reading Recovery continues to serve Columbus children. Each school can select classroom and intervention programs: some have chosen Reading Recovery; some have chosen Sylvan or others.
Second, Reading Recovery has a 13-year record of success with the lowest-achieving first graders – and the data to back it up. Reading Recovery steps in early, offering one-on-one tutoring before the cycle of failure begins. We collect data on every child. Of 436,249 children entering the program, 313,848 had enough time to complete it. Of those, 81% succeeded – reading at average or slightly above average rates. No one has ever seen any comparable documentation of success from Sylvan.
Independent researchers validate Reading Recovery’s effectiveness: According to Cunningham and Allington, “No other remedial program has ever come close to achieving the results demonstrated by Reading Recovery.” Another exhaustive review of research by Shanahan and Barr concluded that “In answer to the question ‘Does Reading Recovery work?’ we must respond in the affirmative.”
Third, Reading Recovery teachers do teach phonics, among a wide complex of skills proven to help children read: Children in Reading Recovery learn phonological awareness, letter identification, concepts about print, and word learning. According to researchers Stahl, Stahl, and McKenna, all students in Reading Recovery made gains in letter identification, phonemic awareness, and dictation tests, and all made significantly greater improvement in phonological processing tasks than students not served in Reading Recovery.
Fourth, Reading Recovery is effective and highly regarded in New Zealand. Your editorial reports an unidentified “study” contending that New Zealand’s government deems Reading Recovery ineffective. Just the opposite: Government figures say over 90% succeed in Reading Recovery. (See Kerslake, J., A summary of the 1995 data on Reading Recovery. Research and Statistics Division Bulletin, No. 5, Ministry of Education, Wellington, NZ).
Reading Recovery is not whole language. It is not a classroom program. It serves children from many different instructional approaches.
Reading Recovery has one clear goal: to dramatically reduce the number of children who have extreme difficulty with literacy learning and their cost to education systems. It is designed to be part of a high-quality, comprehensive program to assure literacy learning at every grade. It gets children started, and at that it does extraordinarily well.
Gay Su Pinnell
The Ohio State University