sealPurdue News

December 12, 1996

Indiana Reading Recovery logs another successful year

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Indiana's Reading Recovery program, which for three years has given at-risk first-graders the edge in the fight against illiteracy, now is part of a new reading and literacy initiative proposed by the Indiana Department of Education.

Suellen Reed, superintendent of public instruction, was scheduled to announce at a Statehouse press conference this morning (Thursday, 12/12) that the Reading Recovery program is part of her department's legislative agenda for the upcoming session of Indiana's General Assembly. Called Reading & Literacy Initiative for a Better Indiana, the agenda asks for $32 million from the state for the 1997-1999 biennium. In addition to providing funding for Reading Recovery, the agenda asks for a renewed investment in school library books and more funding for adult education and literacy.

Reed also is scheduled to talk about the initiative during a Reading Recovery conference at Purdue University on Friday (12/13).

Reading Recovery targets the 20 percent of first-grade students who are having difficulty reading. Specially trained teachers work one-on-one with the children to improve their reading skills.

The state's Reading Recovery program is based at Purdue. Director Maribeth Schmitt says the program's 1995-96 test results show that 88 percent of the first-graders who participated in a full program reached the average reading level of their peers, up one percentage point from 1994-95.

A total of 1,877 first graders participated in the program during the 1995-96 school year, an increase of 833 students from last year. Seventy-eight percent of the children reached or exceeded the average level on writing vocabulary, 94 percent did so on hearing and recording sounds in words, and 85 percent on text reading.

"Our results have been well above the national average of the 83 percent of children enrolled in the program who read at or above grade level after 12 to 16 weeks," Schmitt said. "We are really pleased."

She added that the 1995-96 findings are consistent with results from the first two years of the program in Indiana.

National data show that students who finish the program continue to make progress with no further special help. Their success translates into cost savings for their school districts because it means fewer children will be retained for another year in first grade, be mistakenly classified as learning disabled or have to take remedial reading classes throughout their elementary school years.

Schmitt said Indiana needs 2,300 Reading Recovery teachers to reach all the first-graders who are having difficulty reading. At present the state has 17 trained teacher leaders, another eight in training, 230 trained teachers and another 200 teachers in training.

Teacher leaders spend a year at Purdue, then return to their school districts and teach colleagues how to become Reading Recovery teachers. Those teachers then work one-on-one with the children for 30 minutes a day until the children have caught up with their classmates. On the average, it takes about 16 weeks for a child to complete the program.

"Reading Recovery is a preventive program, not remediation," Schmitt said. "We can get the students started on the road in a way they didn't have before."

The program began in Indiana after Deborah R. Dillon, associate dean of the School of Education at Purdue, began investigating why Indiana was one of only seven states that had not implemented the program at any level. In the summer of 1992, Schmitt, a Purdue graduate and literacy educator, became the director and trainer of teacher leaders for the newly formed Indiana Reading Recovery program.

Schmitt returned to Purdue after attending the Center for the Study of Reading at the University of Illinois in 1993 to train seven master teachers statewide to become teacher leaders. She is one of 38 trainers of teacher leaders in the world; Purdue is one of 19 teacher training sites in the United States.

The teacher leaders in training spend a full academic year at Purdue, taking 18 credit hours of graduate-level courses and teaching four Reading Recovery students daily. Their school districts support the teachers by paying for fees and materials, providing a housing allowance and hiring a replacement teacher for a year, while continuing to pay the teacher leader's salary.

The program began with teachers from seven sites attending the training program at Purdue during the 1993-94 school year. The program has since grown to 13 sites across the state with 17 teacher leaders. The current sites are: Anderson Community Schools, Fort Wayne Community Schools, LaPorte Community School Corp., Middlebury Community Schools, MSD Lawrence Township (Indianapolis ), MSD Warren Township (Indianapolis ), New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated Schools, Northwest Indiana Reading Recovery Consortium (Hobart ), Peru Community Schools, Purdue, Region 8 ESC Reading Recovery Consortium (Fort Wayne ), School City of Mishawaka and Southeast Indiana Reading Recovery Consortium (Jeffersonville ).

Reading Recovery was started by Marie M. Clay, a New Zealand educator, and first implemented in this country in 1984 at the Ohio State University. The program now operates in 49 states and the District of Columbia. More than a quarter of a million children have received Reading Recovery instruction since its introduction in the United States.


Source: Maribeth Schmitt, (765) 494-5683; e-mail,

Writers: Thomas Holt, (765) 494-2096

Ellen Rantz, (765) 494-2073; e-mail,

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