Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Adjusting Beginning Reading Intervention Based on Student Performance: An Experimental Evaluation

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Adjusting Beginning Reading Intervention Based on Student Performance: An Experimental Evaluation

Article excerpt

Schools are increasingly implementing response to intervention (RTI) or tiered systems of support in an attempt to more effectively and efficiently meet the needs of all students, especially those who are at risk for early reading difficulties (Samuels, 2011). Typical features of RTI include (a) providing comprehensive high-quality classroom instruction to students, (b) administering universal screening measures to identify students who are at risk for future reading difficulties, (c) implementing targeted supplemental intervention for students who need additional support, (d) monitoring student progress, and (e) intensifying the level of support for students who do not respond to supplemental intervention based on progress-monitoring data (Bradley, Danielson, & Doolittle, 2005; National Center on Response to Intervention, 2010).

However, the amount and quality of research evidence supporting the various components of RTI is mixed (Lembke, McMaster, & Stecken 2010). For example, in an Institute of Education Sciences (IES) practice guide on RTI for reading in the primary grades, Gersten et al. (2009) reported moderate evidence supporting universal screening and strong evidence supporting the provision of supplemental, or Tier 2, intervention for students experiencing reading difficulties. Conversely, Gersten et al. reported that there is little current evidence to guide schools in how to best intensify supports for students who show minimal response to Tier 2 intervention.

The purpose of this study was to experimentally evaluate a model for adjusting the intensity of a Tier 2 kindergarten reading intervention based on student performance. Specifically, the goal was to enhance the efficacy of Tier 2 intervention through timely and feasible instructional adjustments. To that end, we compared the effects of the Early Reading Intervention (ERI; Pearson/Scott Foresman, 2004), a supplemental beginning reading intervention, implemented conventionally (i.e., lessons delivered sequentially without modifications [ERI comparison condition]) with the same intervention systematically adjusted over the year based on student performance (ERI experimental condition). We examined student outcomes at the end of kindergarten and again a year later at the end of first grade.


A central feature of RTI is adjusting the level of intervention support based on students' response to instruction. In the standard approach to RTI that has been widely promoted and adopted (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2009; National Center on Response to Intervention, 2010), schools typically make instructional adjustments for students receiving intervention every 8 to 12 weeks, and these adjustments are informed by student achievement assessed through curriculum-based measurement (CBM).

Specifically, in this standard approach to RTI, students who are identified as needing additional support receive a structured intervention implemented for a predetermined amount of time (e.g., 8-12 weeks). The intervention is implemented consistently and with fidelity. During the intervention, student progress is monitored using alternate titans of CBM probes, which assess student growth on a curriculum independent general outcome (e.g., oral reading fluency). At the end of approximately eight to ten weeks, decisions related to increasing or decreasing the level of instructional intensity are made based on well-defined decision rules related to the level and/or slope of students' CBM data. For example, a group of students who have not reached a specified benchmark may be provided with another 8 to 12 weeks of a more intensive intervention.

Strengths of this approach to RTI include efficient use of resources by identifying and implementing a small number of evidence-based interventions that are carefully selected to best meet the collective needs of the largest number of students. This model also emphasizes high levels of implementation fidelity, enabling consistent instructional quality and dosage for all students receiving intervention. …

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