Nicholson (1989) and Robinson (1989) have pointed out that although Clay
provides clear evidence that children improve on measures that she has designed
(possibility of teaching to the test factor), there is no evaluation for transfer to other
reading measures. Even more troubling is the finding that the results reported by RR are
only for children who have successfully been discontinued from the program, excluding
about 30 percent of the participants. Because children are not randomly assigned to RR
or an appropriate control group, the question is raised whether the growth demonstrated
in RR might not be explained simply in terms of normal development.
Children who have participated in Reading Recovery continue to achieve, on
average, better than similar children who were not enrolled in the program. But when the
difference is considered in relation to the variance existing within the sample, the size of
the effect diminishes substantially from first to third grade (Shanahan and Barr, 1995).
Comparative evidence shows that RR is not the only program to realize gains of
this magnitude. Other classroom and small group programs have been shown to
dramatically enhance the learning of first-grade students. All low-achieving children thus
may not need this intensive one-to-one instruction. Those forming school policy may
wish to consider some form of early literacy program to accelerate the progress of low-
achieving first graders, and to develop and make available a combination of programs,
including those that involve groups as well as individuals.
Is RR only a temporary gain—is there evidence of long-term gain?
Research has documented that children who complete Reading Recovery and
return to the class do not continue to learn at the same rate as average children in the
class, but seem to immediately begin falling behind again (DeFord, Pinnel, Lyons, and