Intervention in the Regular Education Classroom

During a very informative Twitter chat on Professional Learning Communities (#atplc) led by John Wink (@johnwink90), I tweeted the following:

“Common misconception: Intervention is a pull out. Research shows interventions are just as successful in classroom (R Allington). #atplc”

I got a few questions after sharing, such as “Can the regular classroom teacher also administer an intervention?” and “What specific research actually supports this?”.

Fair questions. I discovered this information in the excellent resource Schools That Work: Where All Children Read and Write by Richard Allington and Patricia Cunningham. The authors provide a lot of practical for improving student learning. A common thread throughout this book is schools don’t necessarily need more staffing and funding to get better. Rather, they should relook at what they already have and do things a little differently.

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Take intervention blocks. Many schools are now required to insert 30-45 minute periods at each grade level for intervention. This concept is proposed by Dr. Michael Rettig and other scheduling experts. Unfortunately, with the daily school schedule is already broken out for specials, lunch, recess and more, this model may serve to further fracture an already disconnected school day. Instead, Allington and Cunningham suggest a more flexible approach: Have special program teachers provide all their instructional support in the regular classroom rather than in a location down the hall (74).

The research to support this method has been around for almost twenty years (Gelzheiser et al., 1992; Sharpe et al., 1994). The two authors summarize these studies by stating that in-class instructional support, whether remediation or special education, produces achievement gains at least as large (my emphasis) as the gains from pull-out instruction without having a negative impact on the achievement of other students in the room (75).

It is not suggested that all intervention should be a push-in model; teachers have to understand their students’s needs. What works best for each individual may be different, including location. For example, a student might be easily distractible in the regular classroom, or they may be embarrassed to be seen reading much easier books than others. In both situations a pull-out model probably works best. However, a positive of intervening in the regular education classroom is the potential for more and better academic collaboration between the specialist and the classroom teacher. The specialist sees the learning targets students are working toward in the classroom and can better connect the intervention to what their student is learning during regular instruction.

Here are some reasons for using this approach to intervention:

– The stigmatism of being pulled out for a “special class” is removed.
– Transitions can be emotionally difficult for some students.
– Each teacher can observe the other teacher instruct, which can lead to some informal yet powerful peer coaching opportunities.
– Less instructional time is wasted going back and forth to and from the intervention room. Allington and Cunningham estimate that, at a minimum, 10 minutes are wasted each day during transitions (124), including getting work put away and back out in the regular classroom. This equates to about one hour per week, or almost four instructional days for an entire school year. What teacher wouldn’t want four more days of instruction to work with their students without having to extend the school year?

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Is the Change Worth the Messiness?

As with any significant change, doing things differently to try to increase student achievement usually involves altering the way we teach. It is uncomfortable, messy and is usually met with resistance. The way I may plan to approach this in my school is finding one or even two people who are willing to try this out, even on a very small basis. If positive results are observed, word will spread and more staff will be interested in giving it a shot. At the same, I am keeping an open mind by remembering that no one process works for all schools, including my own.

References

Allington, R.L., & Cunningham, P.M. (2002). Schools That Work: Where All Children Read and Write (2 ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Gelzheiser, L. M., Meyers, J., & Pruzek, R.M. (1992). Effects of pull-in and pull-out approaches to reading instruction for special education and remedial reading students. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 3, 133-149.

Sharpe, M.N., York, J.L., & Knight, J. (1994). Effects of inclusion on the academic performance of classrooms without disabilities: A preliminary study. Remedial and Special Education, 15, 281-287.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

4 thoughts on “Intervention in the Regular Education Classroom”

  1. A push in model is great in theory- but when an intervention program serves 6 students per group (8 groups in total) and those students all come from different classrooms (24 classrooms)- how does one manage that?

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    1. Great point. Our interventions serve three-four students at the most at any one time (and only one student per interventionist for Reading Recovery in 1st). I am fortunate to have three interventionists in my building of 370 students, not counting ELL or EEN. Even then, we have not taken some students right away; we feel the integrity of the intervention by keeping the groups’ size small is more important than getting all the students serviced. What has helped is our interventions, such as Reading Recovery and Leveled Literacy Intervention, have a window of time in which to complete it in. That ensures that more students who have higher reading levels but still have needs can get services at some point in the year.

      I should also note that this is a copy of a post I published back in September, titled “Does Intervention Have to Be a Pullout?” (http://howeprincipal.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/does-intervention-have-to-be-a-pull-out/). For some reason, I had this copy stored privately and I went ahead and published it thinking I never had. Oops! I am glad I did, as it prompted some great additional comments.

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  2. Note: As I read more about Dr. Rettig’s scheduling services, I found out he does support some types of push-in interventions. My mistake. I also like the idea of getting Gifted and Talented students some type of support during a whole school intervention block. My thinking has changed, as I can now see some of the benefits of this type of schedule. It is something I am going to work on for next year with my instructional leadership team.

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