Shippensburg University will share in a $46 million federal grant to expand the Reading Recovery program. The grant was awarded in early September to lead partner Ohio State University, Shippensburg and 13 other partner universities and colleges.
Shippensburg’s portion of the grant is $1.8 million distributed over the next four years includes $300,000 this year. The balance of the grant will be shared with the 14 other partner universities and colleges.
“It was one of only two grants awarded nationwide,” said Dr. Janet Bufalino, associate professor of teacher education and Reading Recovery trainer. She estimated that there were more than 170 applications for the grant.
Reading Recovery is a successful early intervention program that identifies first-graders who struggle with reading and offers up to 20 hours of one-on-one reading instruction as well as group reading instruction by educators trained in the Reading Recovery method.
Shippensburg is one of 23 university Reading Recovery training centers in Canada and the United States and serves school districts in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
According to Bufalino, the first step in the Reading Recovery program is to train teacher-leaders. They enroll in Shippensburg for an entire year to do post-graduate studies. These teacher-leaders learn training methods then take that training to their individual school districts. Individual teachers also enroll at Shippensburg and take six credits to further hone their Reading Recovery skills.
“It (Reading Recovery) is not a scripted program. It’s based on what each child needs. That’s why there is a year of training, because they have to learn all the problems these children have and learn how to help them,” Bufalino said.
The federal grant will help continue the training work, especially due to the recent end of a three-year Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) grant that trained Reading Recovery teacher leaders and teachers but only for Pennsylvania school districts. “This will expand the training into more districts and into the three states that weren’t serviced by the PDE grant.” She expects to train 23 teachers this year and 50 teachers in the following three years with the grant monies.
According to Bufalino, Shippensburg has been training teacher leaders since the mid-1990s. “I was hired here and immediately Shippensburg sent me to Ohio State for a year of training and we have been a training site ever since.”
Bufalino said she spends a lot of her time with school district administrators, helping them see the value in Reading Recovery. She noted that the program is always well received and respected, but current financial constraints at local school districts often take precedence. Specifically, she said, the use of one teacher for one student is problematic for many elementary schools.
“I help them think about the future, that these children won’t go into special education classes or repeat a grade,” she said. “These teachers may only see four children for half of a day, but the other half is spent with groups of kids. And, kids are out of the program in 12 to 20 weeks.”
The result, Bufalino said, is a lot of children are learning to read, approximately 22,000 since 2001 through Reading Recovery in the mid-Atlantic region.