Intervention In A Primary School In New Zealand Education Essay

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Reading Recovery (RR) was evaluated in Mystery Primary School in Auckland. The program is delivered by the schools' Reading Recovery teacher (Mrs Jones). Mrs Jones has been a RR teacher for 10 years, and receives ongoing training and peer support. The school selects the five most at-risk 6 year olds, based on the results from the Observation Survey, due to limited funding.

During each 30 minutes lesson the children read familiar and new books according to their level of reading ability. They also break up words using magnetic letters; write a story, re-construct a cut-up story, and read the previous days book independently while the teacher takes running records. The children take home the books they are currently reading along with the cut-up story. The parents are encouraged to read with their children each evening, and to help their children reconstruct the cut-up story.

Mrs Jones was observed whilst engaging with three of the five children currently in RR. Table 1 indicates that number of weeks these children have been receiving the RR intervention, the RR level they are currently at, and their current age. Two of the children were of Pākehā descent, and one South African.

Table 1.

The participants engaged in RR whist observing Mrs Jones


No weeks

RR Level





6 years 8 months




6 years 4 months




6 years 7 months

Reading Recovers is an early literacy preventative intervention for at risk children (Lyons, Pinneli, HYPERLINK "#_ENREF_10"&HYPERLINK "#_ENREF_10" DeFord, 1993). It's goal is to assist the lowest performing students after 1 year of schooling to improve their level of reading to that of their peers, and to reduce the number of students requiring special education support in later years (Clay, 2005c). RR consists of six components: text reading, letter identification, dictation, concepts about print, sight words, and writing vocabulary (Clay, 2005a).

RR was developed in 1976 within the educational context of New Zealand (NZ) by Marie Clay (Lyons et al., 1993). It was trialled in NZ in the 1970's and resulted in curriculum changes that focus on the whole-language approach (Tunmer HYPERLINK "#_ENREF_16"&HYPERLINK "#_ENREF_16" Chapman, 2003). The NZ government started financing RR in schools in NZ schools in 1983, and by the end of 1993 the program was operating in 44 U.S. states, 5 Canadian provinces, Australia, and England (Lyons et al., 1993). RR is not only available for children struggling to learn to read in English: it has been reconstructed in Maori, Spanish and French (Lyons et al., 1993).

Children who are at risk of having literacy difficulties after having received a full year of schooling, and are the lowest performing children in the school as assessed using the Observation Survey Assessment (Clay, 2005a). In RR, children meet individually with a specially trained teacher for 30 minutes daily for 12 to 20 weeks (Clay, 2005a). Children are monitored on a daily basis, changing expectations as they become competent readers. Children can be discontinued from the program when they can read at an average level for their age, can write several sentences, and are predicted to make progress without requiring further individual instruction (Clay, 2005a). They are also tested after their lessons are discontinued (Clay, 2005a). Those children who cannot catch up to their peers after 20 weeks are referred to other sources for further support (Clay, 2005a).

The 2011 New Zealand National RR Results (Lee, 2011) indicates that in 2010, 1,450 teachers were involved in delivery 482,148 hours of RR to 11,040 students. Fifty-nine percent of all students involved in RR in 2010 successfully discontinued RR during the year, while a further 10% required further support, 4% left their school before completion, 1% were unable to continue, and 25% were expected to continue RR lessons in 2011. The average number of hours per student per year over the past 10 years has been 36.8 hours. The percentage of six-year-old students who entered RR over the past 10 years has decreased slightly from 17% to 14%. On average, the students were successfully discontinued from RR after 19.1 calendar weeks of lessons. Students that were referred for specialist help, on average, were discontinued from RR after 22.5 weeks of lessons.

Literature Review

The purpose for providing extra literacy tuition is to help children achieve levels of literacy that will enable the to be successful through their school years and beyond. Large numbers of children from all social classes have difficulties in learning to read. Ideally we want to identify these children at kindergarten level, and hence there is a need to know what factors predict success and failure in learning to read (Snow, Burns, HYPERLINK "#_ENREF_15"&HYPERLINK "#_ENREF_15" Griffin, 1998). The most significant predictors are intellectual and sensory capacities, positive expectations about reading, early literacy experiences, and the instructional environment (Snow et al., 1998). The need to identify risk factors plays a crucial role in determining the most effective intervention to address the needs of the individual.

Reading outcomes are determined by complex and multifaceted factors. The general requirements of effective reading instruction includes: adequate reading instruction, adequate progress in learning to read, and effective instruction (Snow et al., 1998). An understanding of the meaning of print and the structure of spoken words can only be gained through frequent exposure to print and opportunities to write. Sufficient practise along with artful teaching practises achieves fluency with different kinds of text written for different purposes. Literacy is necessary for the completion of school, employment and responsible citizenship.

RR can be compared with other one-on-one reading interventions such as Early Steps (ES) and Book Buddies (BB). RR and ES are implemented by trained professions whilst BB is implemented by trained volunteers. Tutoring conducted on a one-one-one bases are highly effective in increasing children's early reading achievement (Bloom, 1984; Snow et al., 1998). Invernizzi et al. (1996) compared children who had received more than 40 BB sessions with those who had attended less, and noted that the students that had received more tutoring out performed those who had received less. The effect size for word recognition was considerably higher than the effect size reported for other tutorial programs. But programs such a RR and ER are expensive and many schools have resorted to less expensive alternatives such as BB which may enable more students to participate (Wasik, 1997).

RR is a based on a whole language approach which focuses on learning-to-read through reading rather than from direct phonemic and phonological instruction (Ryder, Tunmer, HYPERLINK "#_ENREF_13"&HYPERLINK "#_ENREF_13" Greaney, 2008). Students are encouraged to use meaning, language structures, and some visual cues (usually the first letter of the word) to solve unfamiliar words (Clay, 2005c). Although phonetic instruction is taught incidentally, ES and BB offers a systematic approach with card sorting activities and games that teach students about letter sound combinations and vowel patterns (Invernizzi, Rosemary, Juel, HYPERLINK "#_ENREF_6"&HYPERLINK "#_ENREF_6" Richards, 1997; Morris, Tyner, HYPERLINK "#_ENREF_11"&HYPERLINK "#_ENREF_11" Perney, 2000). Ryder et al. (2008) found that students who had received explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and decoding outperformed the control group on measures of decoding, phonemic awareness, reading comprehension, and word recognition. They also noted that after two years these students had continue to excel in word recognition accuracy.

Shanahan and Barr's (1995) meta-analysis concluded that RR consistently shows strong effects, but indicate that there is evidence suggesting that the intervention may be made more efficient by including a more explicit and systematic focus on phonological recoding. Iversen and Tunmer (1993) indicate that RR appears to have stronger effect when it is supplemented with direct phonetic instruction. There is also the debate on whether RR maintains long term effects. Shanahan and Barr (1995) indicate that there is overwhelming evidence that most students do process, but it remains questionable as to whether they progress at the same rate as that of their peers that did not receive the intervention.

No matter how intensive early intervention efforts are, one year of services will not be enough to ensure academic success for some students (Morris et al., 2000; Vellutino et al., 1996). Unfortunately many students are not offered further one-on-one instruction in second grade, and demonstrate few gains (Morris et al., 2000).

Considering this review, the following research questions were devised:

How many of the children from Mystery Primary School that exited the RR program performed at or above the RR standard, and how do these result compare with their initial assessment scores and the score of other children in New Zealand?

How many children required and/or received further assistance after existing from the RR program at Mystery Primary School?

To what extent does the RR program at Mystery Primary School fit in line with the recommended RR practise guidelines?


Participants and Procedures

Mrs Jones has been teaching for over 20 years, and is has been the RR teacher at Mystery Primary School since 2006. She has a quiet friendly disposition and provided constructive positive praise throughout the sessions. An initial interview was held with Mrs Jones and the assistant principal so as to establish the extent to which the intervention is implemented at Mystery Primary School (see Appendix A). Using Clay's (2005b) recommended implementation practise, Mrs Jones was observed interacting with three of the children currently in RR. There were a total of six observations sessions, two with each of the three children (1 male, two females).

Interviews were held with two year 2 teachers who had been teaching for more than 10 years. Both teachers had had several children in their classes that have been discontinued from RR (see Appendix A). Interviews took place in the staff room during tea breaks.

Parents of students who had been discontinued from RR and were still at the school (25 families) were sent a parent questionnaire (see Appendix A).

Informed consents' were obtained from the school principal and the teachers (see Appendix A).


Mystery Primary School is a decile 10 urban primary school (760 students) with 55% Pākehā students; 4% Māori, 2% Pacific, and 39% of other decent. The principal and staff strongly support RR. RR lessons take place in a private room with a whiteboard, desk and chair. There is a wooden block on the floor for the children to place their feet on whilst seated on the chair. Mrs Jones sits next to the student. There are numerous charts on the walls that children can use to assist with the reading of unfamiliar words. There are two rows of boxes on the wall, all clearly labelled, from which Mrs Jones selects the books the children will be reading. The students bring a decorated cardboard box containing their reading bags, writing book, and reading material with them to each session.


Clay's (2005b) RR teacher procedure guide was used to assess the extent that the intervention is implementation according to recommended practise, looking at planning and monitoring, feedback that encourages children to be active problem solvers, and activities to promote learning transfer and retention (see Appendix A).

Entry and exist assessment results for Mystery Primary School and the National sample were obtain from Reading Recovery New Zealand database by Mrs Jones (see Appendix A).

A questionnaire was designed and sent to 25 families of student who had been discontinued from RR (see Appendix A). The questionnaires were placed in sealed envelopes with an addressed envelope included for the completed questionnaires to be returned to Mrs Jones.


The 2010 New Zealand National RR Report (Lee, 2010) results indicate that a total of 2,700 students were carried over from 2009 into 2010. The 2011 New Zealand National RR Report indicates that a total of 11,040 were engaged in RR in 2010, with a total of 6,450 successfully discontinued from RR. It is not possible to quantify if all the students that were carried over from 2009 were successfully discontinued from RR in 2010.

A total of 12 students at Mystery Primary School qualified for entry in RR during 2010, with 2 having been carried over from 2009 (see Appendix B). A total of 8 students were successfully discontinued and 3 students carried over to 2011. Only 1 student was referred for additional support. Table 1 contains the three average entry and exit RR assessment result from Mystery Primary School and the 2011 New Zealand National RR Results for students that were successfully discontinued from RR in 2010.

Comparison was done with the national sample and Mystery Primary School's Text Level scores, Writing Vocabulary Task scores, and Burt test scores. The students from Mystery Primary School existed with the same Text Level Task scores and lower scores for both the Writing Vocabulary Task and Burt Test. Table 1 contains the average initial and exist scores for Text Level Tasks, Writing Vocabulary Task, and Burt Text for Mystery School and the national sample. On exit seven student had Text Level Task score equal or above the national sample, three had Writing vocabulary Task scores equal or above the national sample, and three with Burt Test scores above or equal to the national sample. Students showed the smallest improvement in the Burt Test. Overall Mystery Primary School performed at or below the scores taken from the national sample (Question 1).

Table 1

Average Initial and Exit Scores of the National Data & Mystery Primary School for 2010



Text Level Task

Writing Vocabulary


Burt Test


Mystery Primary (n=8)




2010 National (n=6450)





Mystery Primary (n=8)




2010 National (n=6450)




Note. n = number of records

Three students from Mystery Primary School did not receive any instruction, and were carried over to 2011. One student received 17 weeks of instruction required and was referred to a Learning and Behaviour Resource Teacher.

The RR observations and interview with Mrs Jones assessed that the intervention was being implement in line with Clay's (2005b) recommended practise (Question 3). The three key areas identified: planning and monitoring, feedback and instruction practise, are summarised in Table 2.

Table 2

Recommend implementation practise based on Clay's (2005b) recommendations

Recommended practise key areas

1. Planning and monitoring

Keeps daily running records

Progress graphs kept for each child

Seeks advise from tutors about 'hard to teach children'

Keeps 'hard to teach children longer in the programs

2. Feedback that encourages children to be active problem solvers

Explicit feedback provided when taught strategies are used

Tutor appears to modify prompts in response to type of error (e.g., points to word when semantic errors are made)

Gives children opportunity to self-correct mistakes

3. Activities to promote learning transfer &retention, including learning letter-sound


Children copy words on different mediums (e.g., board, door, paper) to learn new words, and sing letters of words to aid memory

Children encouraged to say the sounds when writing unknown words and look at the tutor's lips as she articulates a sound

Words learned in reading are reinforced through writing

Most parents (72%) agreed that RR had improved their children reading and writing, and that they had become more confident readers. Around 60% or the parents indicated that their children required further assistance once they had been discharged from RR

(Question 2) (see Appendix C).

The two teachers interviewed about the effectiveness of RR indicated that they felt children reading and writing skills improve as a result of the intervention. The teachers all emphasised the change in the children's willingness and motivation to engage in reading and writing was the most significant change they had noticed.


The results indicate that overall RR was assisting struggling readers at Mystery Primary School, except for the Text Level Task, with overall smaller gains compared to the national sample. Although the children made gains, their initial entry scores were below the national sample, and hence this may account for the lower exit scores (Question 1). When compared to the national sample, Mystery Primary School children were discharged from RR earlier (mean=16, mean=20) and they received fewer 30 minutes lessons (mean=79.35, mean=55.37).

RR intervention aims to reduce the number of students who need longer services, especially those who will receive special education services. Unfortunately I was not able to obtain any standard school test results for the student currently at Mystery Primary School that have been discontinue from RR to substantiate this. Since 60% of the parents indicating that their children required additional support once they were discontinued from RR, it can only be assumed that the long term gains are not significant, and RR does not reduce the need for special education services (Question 2). This is consistent with Reynolds and Wheldall (2007) claim that gains made during RR are not consistently sustained. Mystery Primary School engages all children that have been successfully disengage from RR in Rainbow Reading. Rainbow Reading is an audio-facilitated reading programme consisting of a series of books with accompanying audio support and activities.

The implementation of RR at Mystery Primary School closely follows

Clay's (2005b) recommended implementation strategy (Question 3). Mrs Jones not only modified her teaching for each child, but she dynamically addressed needs as an when they appeared. For example, whilst reading a new book the student was unable to read an unfamiliar word. Mrs Jones noticed that the child was having difficulty with a blend. She made use of the magnetic board and spent the rest of the lesson helping the child to identify words with similar blends. The following day she started the lesson on the magnetic board before reading the new book. When the child came upon the unfamiliar word she read it fluently and looked up at Mrs Jones. Mrs Jones ignored her and she continued to read.

Many of the parents commented that Mrs Jones was so understanding, supportive, encouraging, and welling to help them to understand the RR methods. They were then able to implement the same methods at home when reading with their children.

These results indicate that the intervention is not reducing the numbers of children with severe reading problems and there is no clear evidence of strong support for RR. The

There are numerous limitations in this study which has influenced the outcomes.

Discuss any limitations of the study


I experienced great difficulty finding a school that was willing for me to assess RR at their school. The principle of Mystery Primary School indicated that they had previously been involved in an assessment done by Auckland University, and hence reluctant for further assessment to be done. Mrs Jones went out of her way to accommodate me assist me. Access to the RR database is a huge limiting factor as it does not allow for easy extra of required data. In the end Mrs Jones had to manually extract the data and store it in an Excel spreadsheet. I can find no justification for the use of an expensive intervention that can only help out a few children, and does not have explicit

End with approximately one paragraph reflection of the experience. What you learned and what you would do differently if you had to do it over again.