Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Effects of a Tier 2 Supplemental Reading Intervention for At-Risk Fourth-Grade Students

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Effects of a Tier 2 Supplemental Reading Intervention for At-Risk Fourth-Grade Students

Article excerpt

For too many children, reading failure is a persistent problem. The number of fourth-grade students reading below grade level remains unacceptably high. The National Assessment of Educational Progress has reported that 34% of fourth-grade students in the United States perform below basic levels in reading (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). Although efforts in early identification and intervention have been successful in addressing the needs of younger students, less attention has been devoted to children in later elementary grades with late emerging reading problems or who have persistent reading problems (Catts, Hogan, & Adolf, 2005; Compton, Fuchs, Fuchs, Elleman, & Gilbert, 2008; Leach, Scarborough, & Rescorla, 2003). For many children, this means that they either encounter new problems in reading as they get older or continue to exhibit reading problems that were apparent earlier in their development.


Effective and appropriate interventions are necessary to meet the needs of students in upper elementary grades. Recent efforts to develop alternative identification and intervention models for students with learning disabilities have led to models such as response to intervention (RTI). In RTI models, universal screening is used to identify students who may be at risk. These students receive tiered supplemental instruction that in, creases in intensity as needed. In most models of RTI, general education classroom instruction is considered Tier 1 and students who are identified as at risk receive Tier 2 instruction, which includes supplemental intervention for small groups of children several days per week. Students who are "nonresponsive" to Tier 2 instruction may continue in Tier 2 instruction or receive more intensive, individualized reading instruction (i.e., Tier 3).

The extant literature on RTI focuses on the early grades (e.g., O'Connor, Harty, & Fulmer, 2005; Vaughn, Linan-Thompson, & Hickman, 2003). These studies of students at the early elementary level have indicated the potential for multiple component interventions for Tier 2 and provided some general guidelines about the intensity of instruction (frequency and duration) that might be appropriate. However, in these studies the focus is on word level and fluency skills rather than vocabulary or comprehension instruction. Older students often require attention to multiple reading domains. As such, for students in upper elementary grades and above, little is known about the optimal instructional content for a Tier 2 reading intervention.

There are few studies of multiple component interventions for students in fourth and fifth grades. In a recent review of literature on reading interventions, Wanzek, Wexler, Vaughn, and Ciullo (2010) identified only two intervention studies targeting more than one reading domain. Therrien, Wickstrom, and Jones (2006) focused their experimental study on fluency and comprehension and reported significant differences favoring the treatment group on fluency but not on a broad measure of reading that included word identification and passage comprehension. Their intervention was delivered over 50 sessions of 10 to 15 min each (8-12 hr of instruction). O'Connor and colleagues (2002) provided approximately 36 hr of instruction to two experimental groups who received instruction in phonological awareness, phonics, reading text, fluency, and comprehension. The authors manipulated the reading level of text used for instruction. Both treatment groups outperformed the control group on second-grade level fluency, word reading, and comprehension measures; the groups did not differ on listening comprehension or fluency in fourth-grade level text.

Given the paucity of studies for upper elementary-grade students, adoption of a validated program within an RTI framework is challenging for this age range. The two studies (O'Connor et al., 2002; Therrien et al. …

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