Professional Development

Investing in Our Teachers

Professional Teacher LearningAll districts invest in professional development, yet few actually assess the value of this investment. Investing in a school’s greatest resource, its teachers, is especially important for those working with students struggling with literacy learning. The clinical nature of Reading Recovery training provides the capacity for continuous problem solving for the most challenging learners (Bryk, 2009a; Bryk, 2009b; May et al., 2016).

School leaders come to value the flexibility of offering site-based training for their Reading Recovery teachers taught by a registered teacher leader, and the continuing professional development for both the teachers and the teacher leader(s). During the training year, teachers participate in weekly sessions while working with four children in the individual Reading Recovery setting. The important feature of this training model is the capacity that teachers build for problem solving and reflective practice that can be used by Reading Recovery teachers in all aspects of their work in schools.

There is a compelling payoff for the training of Reading Recovery teachers. They think about their teaching in many ways including the following (Clay, 1991):

  • They notice a mismatch between what the child is doing and their own rationales.
  • They learn to check on their own assumptions in the face of student behaviors and clear data.
  • They learn to articulate conflicts and shifts in ideas with their peers.
  • They shift their practices and understandings of learning to read and write.
  • They become more articulate about literacy processes and question their colleagues.
  • They pick up a learning issue and reason it through.

“So, Reading Recovery training of teachers improves teaching as well as children’s learning” (Clay, 1991, p. 69).

The 4-year i3 evaluation study (May et al., 2016) found that the instructional strength of Reading Recovery teachers was the most important factor in the effectiveness of lessons. They defined instructional strength as the extent to which a teacher teaches for maximum learning in every lesson. They found that effective Reading Recovery teachers demonstrated two characteristics:

  • Deliberateness: a commitment to thoughtful practice
  • Instructional Dexterity: the flexible application of deep skills within the lesson itself

They also found that the strongest Reading Recovery teachers brought a set of attitudes and dispositions including openness to change, excellent interpersonal skills, a strong work ethic, and a belief in the ability of all students to learn. In addition, the research suggested that implementation decisions by school and district leaders directly impacted the effectiveness of lessons. The findings of this study provide direction for further study about the instructional strength of Reading Recovery teachers.

Professional development for Reading Recovery professionals yields an additional benefit. “Reading Recovery teachers are not only an investment in the success of the students they serve, but an investment in building the overall literacy understandings and teaching practices within their building and districts” (Lipp, 2018, p. 31).

The Benefit of University Credit

Reading Recovery is more than an intervention program for at-risk students. It is a system intervention to reduce reading failure. Reading Recovery works because teachers learn how to teach the hardest- to-teach children in effective ways. The initial course work requires graduate academic credit across an academic year in order to ensure rigor and high expectations. The requirement of academic credit pro- vides the means for holding teachers accountable for the learning and for the commitment to high-quality teaching and implementation. If teachers are unable to meet the requirements of the training courses, they do not get credit for the course and are therefore not recognized as Reading Recovery teachers. In order for Reading Recovery teacher training to be effective, its quality must not be compromised.

Reading Recovery Training

Reading Recovery’s outstanding results are rooted in its three-tiered training and professional development for teachers, teacher leaders, and university trainers.

All Reading Recovery professionals receive a full academic year of graduate-level education followed by ongoing professional development sessions throughout their years in Reading Recovery.

No packaged program can substitute for an informed teacher’s design and delivery of individual lessons for each child. In Reading Recovery, the teacher analyzes students’ strengths and needs, selects procedures and makes informed teaching decisions before and during lessons, and assesses results to inform her next teaching moves. This process takes skill and ongoing study, collaboration, and support.

Reading Recovery provides unparalleled training. Learn more about our 3-tiered training:

Ongoing professional development, coupled with adherence to standards, assures the quality of Reading Recovery. Reading Recovery’s training, teaching, implementation, and research are carried out through the leadership of the North American Trainers Group (NATG) at university-based centers in the U.S and training centers in Canada.

Training for Teachers

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, 2016), 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.

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.

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.

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.

Training for Teacher Leaders

Reading Recovery teacher leaders are key people with a complex role requiring a wide range of skills obtained in a full academic year of professional development.

They are leaders in their local districts where they teach children, train Reading Recovery teachers for local schools, maintain contact with past trainees, analyze and report student outcomes, educate the local educators, advocate for what cannot be compromised, and communicate with the public.

Teacher leaders are selected by a school district or consortium of districts that has made a commitment to implement Reading Recovery. The teacher leader candidate attends a registered university training center in the United States or a regional institute in Canada for an academic year of full-time professional development. For more details about requirements for teacher leader selection and professional development see the Standards and Guidelines for the United States and for Canada. Teacher leaders in the U.S. must have a master’s degree. Candidates in both countries must have teaching credentials, effective teaching experience, and leadership potential. Find your University Training Center or Regional Institute.

The teacher leader candidate attends a registered university training center in the United States or a regional institute in Canada for an academic year of full-time professional development. Their complex role requires them to:

  • become Reading Recovery teachers
  • develop an academic understanding of the theoretical concepts upon which Reading Recovery is based and a flexibility to consider new concepts and practices
  • test practice against theoretical concepts
  • critically appraise Reading Recovery’s strengths and problem spots as well as competing explanations for its success
  • observe and work through the experiences of a teacher trainee group across an academic year with the support of experienced teacher leaders in the field
  • help teachers develop competency in individualized assessment-based instruction to improve student achievement
  • become skilled at working with adult learners in order to effect significant change in teachers’ practice
  • develop a thorough knowledge of the whole operation of Reading Recovery in an education system including organizing and administering the teacher training course and evaluating and reporting student outcomes
  • become skilled at working with local administrators (e.g., site coordinator, principals)
  • develop interactive system-level leadership skills

In order to accomplish these goals during the initial year of professional learning, teacher leader candidates teach Reading Recovery students daily; participate in graduate-level classes at an authorized training center that include teaching sessions; engage in course work to explore theoretical concepts in reading, writing, language, literacy difficulties, and adult learning theory; participate in leadership seminars and practical lessons that include field work at established sites; and prepare their home districts for Reading Recovery implementation.

After the initial year, teacher leaders return to full-time positions in their districts/sites and ongoing professional development. They continue to learn during this field year with the guidance and support of their university trainer(s). They teach children daily in Reading Recovery, train Reading Recovery teachers, and provide leadership for site implementation with the support of the site coordinator (the administrator responsible for overseeing and managing the implementation of Reading Recovery). Teacher leaders oversee data collection on all Reading Recovery children and use evaluation data to work with school leadership teams to improve student performance and implementation factors.

As long as they are in the role, teacher leaders participate in regularly scheduled professional development sessions conducted by university trainers. They also attend a national or regional conference each year and participate in an annual required national Teacher Leader Institute to ensure current knowledge about all aspects of their roles.

Training for University Trainers

Becoming a Reading Recovery university trainer requires a year-long residency program (at the post-doctoral level in the United States). The initial year of professional development for trainers is offered at four international centers.

Reading Recovery trainers are faculty members within an established university training center (UTC) or Regional Canadian Institute who are responsible for initial and ongoing professional development for teacher leaders, supporting a network of affiliated Reading Recovery teacher training sites, expanding and strengthening sites within the network, and ensuring the integrity of Reading Recovery within the region. More than 20 Reading Recovery UTCs currently provide the organizing structure for states or regions of the United States, and 3 Canadian institutes provide regional structures for that country.

For more detailed information about becoming a Reading Recovery trainer and about professional development requirements for trainers see the Standards and Guidelines for the United States and for Canada.

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THE JOURNAL OF READING RECOVERY

Fall 2023