Tiered Intervention Really Increases Reading Achievement

As Ocean View began its journey to the Blue Ribbon, we were faced with almost half of our third graders scoring non-proficient on the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) Reading Test. We shifted our reading program away from whole language and back to teacher-directed, guided reading groups to ensure that every student received formal direct instruction in reading every day. However, our third grade reading scores remained stagnant.

Knowing that monitoring is critical for ensuring implementation of any new initiative, I realized that I needed to be able to track student progress in reading instruction. Pacing charts were developed to systematically move students and reading groups through the basal readers, with teachers sending a report to me each quarter showing exactly where each reading group was in the basal. In grade-level meetings, we discussed where each reading group was, how quickly they are moving, which students needed additional support and which students needed to move up to a higher basal level. Professional development, demonstration lessons and intervention support was provided by our Reading Specialist and literacy teachers, and diagnostic reading lessons by the Reading Specialist were conducted to monitor accurate placement of students. I felt that the foundation for good instruction was laid; we just needed to figure out how to make it work for us.


Out of all this discussion came the realization that we needed to provide much more instruction for our struggling readers.  We decided to begin what we then called "double-dosing" and "triple-dosing" our under performing students.  Students in the primary grades (K – 3) are given both the PALS and DRA Tests (as directed by our district).  Students not meeting benchmarks are assigned to a literacy group.  This group of students receives two teacher-directed, small group, guided reading lessons each day — one with the classroom teacher using the basal reader along with all other students (Tier 1) and a second lesson with the literacy teacher who focuses on specific skills determined by assessment data (Tier 2).  Two subgroups, special education and limited English language learners, are provided a third reading lesson each day from the special education inclusion teacher and the LEP teacher, respectively, who focus on teaching their students using strategies designed to meet their special needs (Tier 3).  In addition, regular education students who have a reading deficit greater than one year or are found to be non-proficient on certain reading skills are also given a third lesson each day, meeting with a SOL intervention teacher for skill-specific lessons (Tier 3, also).

We then realized that we needed much more specific data and we needed it more often.  We developed monthly common formative assessments that measure student mastery of the twelve primary comprehension skills (main idea, finding details, sequence, making inferences and drawing conclusions, author's purpose, etc.) and district determined word analysis skills.  Also, our school district assesses students in reading each quarter, providing additional student performance data.

Student reading assessment data is analyzed by classroom teachers, grade-level teams, the English vertical team, and the school lead data team.  Decisions are made at each step and relayed up.  Teachers with the highest proficiency rates share successful instructional strategies.  Teachers with lower rates commit to adjust instruction to include these strategies.  Reading and literacy group assignments are changed to reflect current data.  This data is then used by classroom teachers for whole class mini-lessons and guided reading group focus.  Literacy teachers also tailor lessons to focus on data-determined needs in their daily literacy groups.  SOL intervention focus is determined and students are assigned for triple-dosing (Tier 3 intervention) by SOL intervention teachers who provide even more sharply-focused intervention lessons with one to four students in fluid groups that change from week to week based on skill non-proficiency as determined by this student assessment data.

Schedules are also changed to expedite student support.  For example, the master schedule was changed to ensure the first and second grade reading was at a different time from third grade so that both literacy teachers could be scheduled into third grade for the entire third grade reading block.  This put literacy teachers in each third grade class for an hour, allowing them to meet with the middle reading groups in addition to their literacy groups.  We knew that if almost half of our third graders were non-proficient on the state reading test, then our middle group students (who were supposedly reading on grade level) were also failing the SOL test.  Our literacy teachers double dose the literacy group as always, but they then use the second 30 minutes to double dose the middle group, providing Tier 2 intervention for these students as well.

The results of this tiered intervention have been dramatic.  In 2002, only 54% of our third grade students passed the state reading test.  By 2008, 92% of Ocean View third graders passed the test.  The black/white achievement gap dropped from 18% to -8% (with black students passing at higher rates than white students).

At Ocean View, our goal continues to be universal proficiency.  Using tiered intervention is bringing us closer and closer to this goal.

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Read what others had to say...

I understand how Tier 1 works, but do all students participate in Tier 2? If not, what are the others doing while Tier 2 is going on for the struggling readers?

Reginald, a good place to start for information on RTI is to check out your own State Department of Education web site. Each state web site has information about how RTI is used in their state -some are better than others. Also, as you may know, this RTI Action Network is currently forming mentoring groups to bring people together to discuss implementation strategies for RTI.

Kelly, each class at our school has three reading groups which the teacher meets with each day. When the teacher is working with one group, the students in the other groups work independently on reinforcement activities. At this time, an intervention teacher can come into the classroom to provide a second and even a third lesson for those students. We are able to do this because we dedicate a full two uninterrupted hours to reading and writing instruction in our school.

The article and information presented was excellent. I am a teacher and ne to the concept of RTI. I am becoming more and more fascinated and knowledgeable each time I view your site. Please inform me of other sites or references I can use to get more information on this important area or disabilities.

Check out and comment on What Remedial Reading Teachers Want (A Manifesto).

Kelly, all of our classes have three guided reading groups each day. When the teacher is meeting with one group, the students in the other groups are able to work on independent reinforcement learning activities, enrichment activities or with one of our tiered intervention support teachers. This creates the possibility for a student to receive reading instruction each day from the classroom teacher (tier 1), the literacy teacher (tier 2) and the intervention teacher (tier 3). There is no need to remove the student from instruction in another subject.

I enjoyed reading about the dramatic increase in student achievment in reading levels at your school. You must have a wonderful and dedicated group of teachers! I am thinking about how I can schedule time for "double-dosing" and "triple-dosing" reading instruction. I am wondering what subjects, if any, your students were pulled out of to receive the extra insruction? I appreciate your article. Thank you.