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Reading Recovery Initiative in Sarasota County Schools Outperforms National Average for Third Consecutive Year

by Gulf Coast Community Foundation

SARASOTA COUNTY, November 4, 2019 – The results are in: Reading Recovery in Sarasota County Schools has outpaced the national average of success for this widely implemented literacy intervention for the third year in a row. Additionally, an independent evaluation suggests the program has positively impacted retention rates, setting more students up for success while ultimately saving the school district money.

Reading Recovery is an intensive, one-on-one tutoring program designed to quickly bring struggling first-grade students’ ability to read and write within the grade-level standard. A report from The Ohio State University, which evaluates Reading Recovery implementations throughout the country, found that 80 percent of Sarasota County students who received a full series of lessons last year reached average to above-average levels of reading and writing. The national rate for achieving grade level through the program—which is one of the longest studied and most highly proven early literacy interventions—is approximately 75 percent.

“We are thrilled to see the continued success of this program,” said Mark Pritchett, President | CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation, which helped the school district first implement Reading Recovery in 2015. “Four years in and we not only continue to outperform the national average as a school district, but we’re also seeing our Reading Recovery ‘graduates’ continue to grow in later grades, with many doing advanced work in their current classrooms.”

An Alta Vista Elementary School student named Kylie, for example, entered Reading Recovery at a below-average reading level in the 2016-17 school year. She successfully completed the program and last year received a 5 on her Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) for English Language Arts. Now, she is in the fourth-grade “Advanced Work” class at Alta Vista. Similarly, Atwater Elementary School student Colton entered Reading Recovery far below the average level when he was in first grade. He successfully discontinued his lessons in just 14 weeks, and he finished first grade reading near the third-grade level. Colton scored a 4 on his FSA last year and has been placed in a fourth-grade Advanced Work class.

In the last school year, 203 Sarasota County first-graders completed a full complement of Reading Recovery lessons, which last from 12 to 20 weeks. Eighty percent of them, or 162 students, reached at least the grade-level average for reading and writing by the time their lessons were discontinued.

Assessment of the program also shows a far wider benefit, with an additional 1,380 students positively impacted by the program last year. That’s because the district’s highly trained Reading Recovery teachers also work with small groups of other students during their afternoons. Additionally, these teachers routinely provide training to their colleagues, who then bring the program’s proven methods to their own classrooms, further amplifying the benefits.

Reading Recovery is also believed to have helped once-struggling students avoid being retained, or repeating a grade. In years one and two of the Reading Recovery implementation in Sarasota County, retention of first-graders at the participating schools dropped versus the prior year. In year three, when the program expanded to all 23 elementary schools, retention rates held steady.

Reading Recovery was introduced in Sarasota County Schools in 2015, with a pilot program at three Title I elementary schools funded by the Keith D. Monda family, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, and Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. The next year, with additional support from more Gulf Coast donors, the program grew to all 10 Title I elementary schools. In 2017, Reading Recovery was expanded district-wide with funding from Barancik Foundation and the Sarasota County School Board.

Reading Recovery was created in New Zealand in the 1970s and brought to the United States in 1984. Extensive research and evaluation over that time have made it the world’s most widely-studied early reading intervention, according to the Reading Recovery Council of North America. Follow-up studies have shown that most Reading Recovery students also do well on standardized tests and maintain their gains in later years.


About Gulf Coast Community Foundation

For 25 years, together with our donors, Gulf Coast Community Foundation has transformed our region through bold and proactive philanthropy. Gulf Coast is a public charity that was created in 1995 through the sale of the Venice Hospital. Since then, we have become the philanthropic home of nearly 1,000 families, individuals, organizations, and businesses that have established charitable funds here, and we have invested over $320 million in grants in the areas of health and human services, civic and economic development, education, arts and culture, and the environment. Learn more at