Accelerated Reading Framework

Principal: Jill Tokumoto
Special Education Teacher Team: Cissi Rice, Shellie Pearce, Nancy McGrath, Sandy Thomas, Shannon Smith

What did you do?

RTI and a three-tier intervention model was introduced in our district in 2005-2006 as an integrated framework in which all students have access to instruction and intervention at all tiers in the three-tier system. School district leaders challenged us to work together to improve teaching and learning for all students. In an RTI framework, Tier 2 and Tier 3 intervention provide students who are struggling to meet grade-level expectations with intense, explicit, and systematic delivery of services in small groups with consistent monitoring. But what about students with high-incidence disorders (learning disabilities and speech or language impairment) who are already identified for special education services? We decided to explore whether using the principles of RTI to accelerate learning for students with mild disabilities could result in closing the achievement gap for these students, leading to dismissal from special education.

An Integrated RTI Framework
Irving Independent School District


Goal: Grade-level reading skills for students with disabilities and dismissal from special education.

Rationale for Change
: Traditional resource room settings do not appear to have a significant effect on reading skills (Bentum & Aaron 2003). Students with learning disabilities need the intense, explicit, and systematic delivery of instruction in small groups with consistent monitoring of specific skills that is available through the RTI framework.

Preparation for Change
: During the fall 2005 semester, we formed a professional learning community to review research, visit programs in other districts, and discuss ways to make special education reading instruction more engaging and effective. With help from central office staff we developed an accelerated reading framework to increase the rigor of special education instruction, developed curriculum-based screening and progress monitoring tools, and made plans to pilot the program beginning in January 2006.

Program Design:

  • Reading instruction for students with disabilities through a combination of Tier 1 instruction in the general education classroom, Tier 1 tutoring support, and one hour per day of supplemental reading instruction designed to meet the specific needs of the students with learning disabilities.
  • The schedule consists of two, thirty-minute reading periods per day, five days per week (in addition to classroom instruction and Tier 1 tutoring support).
  • Instructional materials are selected based on the specific needs of the student.
  • Student groups are no larger than four students per special education teacher.
  • Student groupings are short term and fluid, based on frequent progress monitoring and student mastery of specific objectives.
  • Reading groups are designed so that each special education teacher specializes in one area of reading. Instruction focuses on a specific area of reading based on student need and based on the balanced literacy approach used in our district:
    • Phonemic Awareness
    • Phonics
    • Vocabulary
    • Comprehension
    • Reading Fluency
  • Benchmark data is used for initial placement based on a teacher-made, curriculum-based assessment.
  • Progress monitoring is completed every two to three weeks to adjust instruction and to check student progress.

What were the challenges you faced?

The two biggest challenges we faced were:

  1. Changing special education (resource) instruction from a replacement service to an intensive supplemental service. So, instead of using resource time as the student’s reading instruction time (i.e., providing resource reading instruction while the rest of the class was in language arts/reading), we implemented the RTI principle that Tier 2 and Tier 3 focused intervention is always provided in addition to Tier 1 classroom instruction.
  2. Finding time in the students’ instructional day to work in Tier 1 tutoring support and two thirty-minute reading periods per day, five days per week. Our principal and general education teachers were so supportive of the program that we managed to make it work!

What was the outcome of your effort?

Based on state assessments in reading, special education students in third through fifth grade who took part in the program made more than one year of progress in reading during the school year. Students with disabilities who participated in the program made significantly more progress than students with disabilities who did not receive the intervention. Students who participated in the program also made more progress than they had made the year prior to the program.

Seven of the 15 students in the first cohort were dismissed from IDEA services with on-grade-level reading performance. The results show that we can accelerate learning to read for students with learning disabilities!


What advice would you give others?

We have three pieces of advice:

  1. Develop an effective team with a professional learning community approach to studying RTI and the specific change you want to implement.
  2. Make sure your school principal is on your team!
  3. Turn over accountability for results with students in special education to the grade-level team. Provide progress monitoring data on specific skills to the grade-level team and celebrate student success frequently!
Back To Top