NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Reading Program Costly

January 20, 1997

For years, education specialists have criticized schools for failing to properly teach reading. Educational fads like "whole language" have already disadvantaged tens or hundreds of thousands of students -- perhaps reducing their future to a choice of low-paying jobs, the welfare rolls or prison.

Now comes "Reading Recovery," born in New Zealand in the 1970s, which seeks to accelerate learning to bring children up to average reading levels through one-on-one tutoring.

  • Reading Recovery, introduced in the U. S. in 1984 , is taught in 49 states and the District of Columbia, and offered in more than 2,500 North American school districts -- including Canada.
  • Children are tutored for more than 60 half-hour lessons over a 12- to 20-week period.
  • The program targets the bottom 10 percent to 20 percent of a reading class.

Yet some educational experts say its worth has yet to be proved. Is it just another fad, or the real thing?

  • Long-term benefits are still unclear -- although it seems to work in the first grade.
  • Massachusetts principal Philip C. Dyer says the total costs for a 16-student class is $33,008 -- $2,063 per student, not including teacher training costs.
  • But a North Carolina school system puts the price at $7,700 per student, including regular education.
  • Counting only successful students that jumps to $9,211 per student.

A 1995 study by education professors Timothy Shanahan and Rebecca Barr put the final cost at more than $46,000 per teacher.

Some researchers are skeptical, saying that RR's track record so far fails to prove long-term results.

Source: Matthew Robinson, "Will This Help Johnny to Read?" Investor's Business Daily, January 27, 1997.


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