Reading Intervention

Reading intervention helps students bridge the gap between their current book-reading levels and grade-level expectations. This requires instruction aimed at teaching the foundational skills of decoding and fluency.

Student and parent survey respondents from inquiry boards reported that access to effective interventions is often limited, with many students needing to change schools or school boards to receive help. Some also report that a learning disability diagnosis is required to be eligible for programs like Empower.

Identifying the Need

Students who are struggling with both word reading and language comprehension need targeted, intensive word-reading interventions. They also need effective programing for any oral language weakness. However, some of the programs used by boards are not evidence-based and/or require diagnosis for entry. Student/parent survey respondents from several boards indicated that their children had to wait for the next available spot in a program, such as Levelled Literacy Intervention (LLI) or Empower(tm), or needed significant parental advocacy to get into the program.

Students should be able to access effective interventions without having to change schools, school boards, go to a Provincial Demonstration School or pay for private tutoring. This means that all schools should have access to LLI and other evidence-based programs, including computer-based programs, in the context of an effective RTI/MTSS framework. Research shows that these programs can help students close the gap between their current reading levels and grade-level expectations. When implemented as part of a comprehensive RTI/MTSS framework, they should be offered to students in Kindergarten and Grade 1 to prevent the development of long-term reading difficulties.

Developing a Plan

School psychologists should work with teachers to define reading problems through problem-solving/data-based decision-making methods and identify effective interventions to address these reading problems. They also need to ensure that teachers and interventionists have appropriate training in the selected programs/strategies and in evidence-based practices.

School boards need clear rules about what constitutes a good reading intervention program. For example, students who are a grade or a year behind their peers should have access to the same intervention programs as their more successful classmates. Vague criteria, such as a score below the mean on a standardized assessment, should be replaced with more specific criteria that is tied to the student’s decoding and word-reading skills.

An effective reading intervention program should include explicit instruction, such as three-cueing, to teach sound-letter knowledge and phonemic awareness, phonological decoding skills and the ability to blend sounds into words (or morphology). This instruction should be accompanied by a rich text that provides ample opportunities for guided practice and supported application of new skills in authentic reading contexts.

Implementing the Plan

Students who are struggling with reading need clear, direct guidance and specific instruction in the form of explicit teaching. Research supports the effectiveness of explicit instruction, which involves teaching foundational skills and strategies in a step-by-step manner. It also requires systematic, structured practice of those skills and strategies, with regular feedback and monitoring.

Ensure that teachers and interventionists receive adequate training in the selected program and in research-based strategies. Ongoing professional development can help to improve the quality of intervention instruction and keep educators up-to-date on the latest research findings in literacy.

Many inquiry school boards need more direction from the Ministry on what programs are evidence-based and how they should be used to meet student needs. For example, schools should be able to offer a tier 2 or 3 decoding and word-reading focused intervention in Kindergarten and Grade 1 instead of waiting until Grades 3-4 when the intervention is less effective.

Monitoring Progress

When students receive reading intervention, they need to be monitored for growth. This often involves progress monitoring, which is a frequent formative assessment that provides teachers with information about the effectiveness of their instruction and whether they are on target to reach their goal.

When a student is struggling with fluency, progress monitoring involves measuring oral reading skills using passages at their individual Lexile level, which can be lower than their grade-level text. The teacher assesses how many words the student reads correctly each minute. This information is analyzed and displayed on a graph called a line of progress.

School boards judge the effectiveness of their programs based on students’ book-reading levels pre- and post-tests, with the most successful ones achieving three to four grade-level increases. However, these measures are not as accurate as standardized tests of foundational word reading and decoding skills that would be required for effective early interventions. These interventions, in addition to the regular classroom curriculum, need to be more intensive with more individualized instruction and scaffolded practice and review.

Reading Intervention
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