Clemson University Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Training Center for South Carolina (CUTC)

The goal of Reading Recovery is to dramatically reduce the number of first-grade students who have extreme difficulty learning to reading and write and reduce the cost of these learners to educational systems. Students served in Reading Recovery meet individually with a specially trained teacher for 30 minutes each day for a period of 12-20 weeks. The goal is to accelerate learning through an individually designed and delivered lesson series that closes the achievement gap so children benefit from regular classroom instruction.

Counties Served

Cherokee, Chesterfield, Clarendon I, Clover, Darlington, Florence 1, Fort Mill, Greenville, Hampton, Lancaster, Lexington 1, Lexington 5, Marion, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Richland 1, Rock Hill, Spartanburg 1, Spartanburg 3, Spartanburg 5, Spartanburg 7, Union, York

Annual Cost

Teacher salary for 2.5 hours/day. Reading Recovery teachers serve in a variety of instructional contexts including literacy coaches, reading interventionists, ESOL, special education, and regular classroom teachers in the other part of their day.

Partner Organizations

State Department of Education, participating school districts in South Carolina, Clemson University Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Training Center for South Carolina, The Ohio State University, Reading Recovery Council of North America, International Data Evaluation Center, North America Reading Recovery Trainers’ Group

Funding Sources

Clemson University Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Training Center is supported by a grant from the South Carolina Department of Education.


The annual program evaluation, which uses a two-group, quasi-experimental research pre-post comparison design, continues to establish the replicability and fidelity of the intervention. In 2018-19, 178 teachers in 25 school systems in South Carolina taught 1,525 students in Reading Recovery. Sixty-six percent of all children served (this includes children who move during the intervention and also those who do not receive a complete intervention before the end of the school year) successfully completed the intervention and were on or above grade level in reading. For children receiving a complete series of lessons, 81% successfully finished the intervention on or above grade level.

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) a branch of the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), released an updated report of research in July 2013. WWC’s authoritative and independent assessment confirmed that Reading Recovery is an effective intervention based on scientific evidence. At the end of this third-round review, Reading Recovery is still the only beginning reading program to receive high ratings across all four domains evaluated: alphabetics, fluency, comprehension, and general reading achievement. Reading Recovery ranks number one in general reading achievement. The WWC found that Reading Recovery has positive effects—the WWC’s highest rating—on students’ general reading achievement. They found potentially positive effects, their next highest level of evidence, on fluency, alphabetics, and comprehension outcomes. The report includes an improvement index to reflect the strength of the Reading Recovery intervention. Scores on this index can range from -50 to +50. The improvement index scores for Reading Recovery students show large and impressive effect sizes.

WWC also examined the impacts of the Investing in Innovation (i3) Scale-up of Reading Recovery conducted by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE), an independent external evaluator (May et al., 2016). CPRE’s results confirmed that Reading Recovery had statistically significant positive impacts in the general reading achievement and reading comprehension of struggling readers in first grade.

The National Center on Response to Intervention gave An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement, the screening tool central to Reading Recovery’s evaluation and instruction, the highest possible ratings for scientific rigor. The ratings and descriptions are intended to inform and assist educators as they select screening tools that are valid, reliable, and evidence- based. The Observation Survey is an exemplar for formative assessment that not only measures children’s knowledge, but guides instructional planning in the beginning stages of reading. The survey incorporates six tasks: Letter Identification, Word Reading, Concepts About Print, Writing Vocabulary, Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words, and Text Reading.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading featured Reading Recovery as a “Bright Spot” program in the Quality Teaching category. The national campaign, spearheaded by the Annie E Casey Foundation, is a collaborative effort by dozens of funders across the nation to draw attention to proven programs with strong evidence of effectiveness and rigorous data collection.


All first graders who score in the bottom 20% in reading ability.

Contact Name

C. C. Bates, Ph.D., Director,
Austin Ellington, Program Coordinator,