How effective is your reading intervention program?
1. Literacy must be the school’s first mission.
2. The reading program must be research-based.
3. The school should be organized to facilitate learning.
4. Only well-trained teachers and professionals can deliver the kind of instruction that can improve student performance.
5. Staff development should focus on improving teachers' knowledge of the principles of learning and effective methods and strategies for teaching language arts.
6. Assessments should drive instruction.
7. A developmental sequence should be followed in teaching most skills and concepts.
8. Instruction in “learning to read” should be focused and consistent until students have attained a high degree of mastery – the student is able to “read to learn”.
9. All instruction should be direct, systematic and explicit because it cannot be assumed that students will somehow learn to read and comprehend as result of experiences with various decoding and reading activities.
10. Interventions should be provided for all students not performing at or above grade level.
Evaluate Your Intervention Program
1. Is intervention a priority at all grade levels? Intervention should not wait. The reasoning that students who are falling behind will somehow miraculously catch up just because they’re being exposed to certain skills is fallacious. They do not catch up. Students who are unlikely to attain grade level reading competencies by age nine can be identified in kindergarten and first grade classrooms.
2. Are students appropriately and systematically evaluated to determine their strengths and weaknesses? If students are not properly evaluated, instruction cannot be consciously designed to meet their needs.
3. Is each class grouped and organized based on the needs of the students? The “one size fits all” approach to instruction and intervention simply does not work. Students must receive one to one instruction or be placed in small groups so that an appropriate instructional focus is maintained.
4. Do teachers understand and know how to deal with the behavioral issues presented by underachieving students? Most students who fail to learn to read develop “behavioral problems”. Many are angry and frustrated and no longer believe that they can learn to read. The sensitive teacher understands this and works systematically to gain the student’s trust and to build his confidence by showing him that he can learn, how learning takes place and in general letting the student in on the secrets of reading. Appropriate pacing is also critical.
5. Are teachers trained to flexibly use an array of effective, researched based strategies? No matter what published program materials are used, they cannot be used as a recipe book. There are various ways of teaching blending, spelling patterns, word analysis and vocabulary that are not commonly done in published programs but can be effectively used with these materials to help students develop skills.
6. Is the intervention program intensive? Are students getting support in the regular class? Researcher J. Torgensen and others have shown that many students need 80 to 120 hours or more of intensive intervention by well trained teachers. Students may lose some gains if there is a lack of coordination between the intervention class and the regular classroom. Paraprofessionals may be trained to provide some of this support in the form of additional practice activities designed to maintain and develop skills.
7. Is the program getting measurable and sustainable results? Data should be analyzed to track progress and to modify your plans.