One of the state's largest school networks has defended the under fire $55 million-a-year program that help students with reading problems, after a review by the NSW government found that the program did not work.
Last week, The Sun-Herald revealed the Reading Recovery program had few long term benefits and was offered in too many schools, according to a report by the NSW Department of Education's Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation.
The report found that the program had some impact on students who are really struggling with basic reading but the improvements are short-lived.
Earlier this year, influential US literacy academic Louisa Moats told Victorian bureaucrats that it was indefensible to spend money on the program, which is used in 960 NSW schools.
The Catholic Education Office, which is responsible for 580 schools throughout the state, has labelled the report a "misrepresentation."
Data taken from Sydney Catholic Schools between 2010 and 2015 reveals that more than 90 per cent of its 1000 Reading Recovery students finished the program with reading levels equivalent to the rest of the state.
Dr Dan White, the executive director of Sydney Catholic Schools, said the experience of students in Catholic schools was not the same as that outlined in the NSW government report.
"There can be few greater gifts that we can provide to students than to teach them to read and to love reading," he said.
"It is a shame that the effectiveness of a program that for more than 25 years has given the gift of reading to so many young learners is unfairly called into question by a misrepresentation of who the program was designed for or how it might have been implemented."
One of the central criticisms of the NSW Department of Education's report was that short-term benefits of individual reading recovery programs tailed off once students graduated from the program.
The report from Sydney Catholic Schools found contrary evidence to the review's findings.
"NAPLAN data for Reading Recovery children in SCS shows that 90 per cent of Reading Recovery students perform at or above National Minimum Standards (NMS) in all areas of literacy assessment," the report said. "While less than 5 per cent did not achieve the Year 3 National Minimum Standard in all four literacy scales."
The report found similar results in Year 5 NAPLAN marks.
"The data proves that it works," said Dr White.
"There is a very good reason why Reading Recovery has been the preferred model of literacy intervention for students in Sydney Catholic schools for the past 25 years: it is because students benefit from it. That is why we will continue to use it."
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli is currently reviewing the program. "He has asked for advice on how the report's findings can be used to further refine the effective, targeted delivery of reading support to students needing it most," a spokeswoman said.
Maybe it's the way it is being taught in state schools? Are the teachers properly trained? Is it one to one? Are they choosing the right children to receive intervention? I guess we will find out after Piccoli's review.
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