Reading Intervention Placement
Placing students in remedial reading intervention classes is certainly a challenge. By understanding what does and does not make sense in the selection process, educators will be able to avoid many of the usual pitfalls of these types of programs and have a greater chance at success.
What Does Not Make Sense in Terms of Reading Intervention Placement
1. Placing students in remedial reading classes from the results of standards-based assessments and herding them into a reading intervention class is crazy. Students score poorly on standards-based tests for all kinds of reasons. The student data from the PAARC and SBAC Standards-based assessments measure student achievement relative to grade-level standards; they are not designed to measure reading-vocabulary abilities, as are normed tests. Additionally, placement based upon the previous annual exam ignores the reading history of the students. Finally, in my experience, this placement mixes students who really only require strategic reading intervention with students who need intensive reading intervention. Usually, more students wind up in intensive reading intervention classes than what is warranted.
2. Placing students into a remedial reading intervention class without regard to behavioral criteria is crazy. Severe ADHD students, students with anger issues, and students who bug the heck out of other students or teachers all need special intervention and may, indeed, need remedial reading instruction. In fact, many of the students who have behavioral problems have learned these behaviors to cope with reading problems. However, just a few of these students can ruin an entire class. We have to take our heads out of the sand on the behavioral issue. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) need to be in place alongside of Response to Intervention (RtI) to form a cohesive (MTSS) Multi-Tiered System of Supports for these students.
3. Placing students into a class of 35 students for remedial reading intervention is crazy. Any remedial reading class has students in that class for many different reasons, even if the placement criteria make sense. Some students have vocabulary deficits; others have decoding issues; others have fluency problems, etc. It’s a given that a remedial reading teacher must differentiate instruction. In order to differentiate instruction, the teacher-student ratio has to be manageable and the class size has to be limited.
4. Placing students in intensive remedial reading classes for 30 minutes a day, for one semester i.e., 18 weeks, is crazy. A survival skills, band-aid approach to remedial reading may even be counterproductive. True remedial reading intervention takes time.
5. Placing students in a remedial reading intervention class taught by a new teacher or an English-language Arts teacher, without extensive support and training, is crazy. Most credential programs only require one or two reading classes. Most new teachers are ill-prepared to teach intensive remedial reading classes. Using reading intervention classes as the dumping ground for new teachers will guarantee failure.
What Does Make Sense in Terms of Reading Intervention Placement
1. Standards-based assessments, such as the PAARC or SBAC, can be a rough, initial screening to alert educators about potential reading problems for individual students. However, a second round of diagnosis is definitely called for before placing student into an intensive reading intervention program. Selecting diagnostic assessments that are outside of the primary remedial reading program is of critical importance. There is the inherent problem of a publisher’s conflict of interest i.e., let’s keep as many students in this program as possible in order to sell more books. These multiple choice reading assessments will efficiently and appropriately narrow down the list of students who really need a remedial reading class after an initial screening has been made.
2. Establish clear selection guidelines that deal with the behavioral issues. Behavioral problem students need help, too, but not in a class size of 35 students, and not at the expense of other students and their teachers. Smaller class sizes with specially trained teachers that deal head-on with the behavioral issues, as well as the reading issues, are essential to the success of behaviorally-challenged remedial reading students.
3. Reasonable class sizes are keys to remedial reading intervention success. Explore structural considerations, such as early-late, team-teaching, and after-school options to achieve sensible teacher-student ratios. Explore using teachers, who volunteer part of their teacher prep with additional stipend or in lieu of teacher duties (trade-offs) to help out. Explore incorporating instructional aides, parents, and student tutors to help manage larger class sizes and to assist with differentiated instruction.
4. Providing enough time for students to gain the reading skills needed to be successful in school is essential. I suggest a minimum of one hour daily for a half-year or full-year program to make a difference in student achievement.
5. Remedial reading intervention cannot be the dumping ground for teachers who lack seniority. Nor can a reading intervention class be a training ground for teachers. Remedial reading students deserve the best. Teachers without reading expertise need to gain that expertise prior to teaching this unique student population. University coursework and professional development are keys to creating the expertise needed to teach remedial reading intervention classes.
Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.
Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.
Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.