Editor’s note: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently launched “The Acceleration Imperative,” a crowd-sourced, evidence-based resource designed to aid instructional leaders’ efforts to address the enormous challenges faced by their students, families, teachers, and staff over the past year. It comprises four chapters split into nineteen individual topics. We're publishing each as a stand-alone blog post.
Targeted interventions for elementary students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) should not occur at the expense of their also receiving quality whole-group instruction with the remainder of the class. As much as possible, every opportunity should be provided to offer student supports that scaffold grade-level instruction, particularly in English language arts, where the development of academic vocabulary and the opportunity to advance oral language competency are vital to literacy success.
- Keep struggling students together with their general-education classmates as much as possible, even as their specific learning challenges are also being addressed in small-group Tier 2 settings. The actual instruction students receive in lower-performing groups can be inferior to that received by students in higher-performing groups, much like how assigning students leveled reading books can keep them permanently behind their peers.
- Structure small-group Tier 2 interventions to maximize their positive impact. The literature is clear about the value of small-group intervention for twenty to thirty minutes per day to help students with learning difficulties or unfinished learning.
- Focus Tier 2 time on high-impact skills and topics. In reading, small-group interventions should focus on foundational skills and fluency or comprehension issues related to specific content in the curriculum. The science is long on the benefits to students with reading disabilities of extra time spent on explicit, repetitive, structured instruction that can help them make the connections between the sounds of spoken words and the letters that represent those sounds. Though more of the literature on multi-tiered instruction has occurred in reading, the principles are equally appropriate for students struggling with mathematics.
- Select and use high-quality instructional materials that include robust discussions, guidance, and tools to scaffold lessons to meet the needs of all learners. Tier 2 interventions should be provided using the core curriculum and be additive, augmenting rather than replacing students’ participation in grade-level lessons as part of the class. Again, much of the benefits of such curricula are experienced in a whole-class setting.
In its Practice Guides on Response to Intervention strategies in reading and math, the Institute of Education Sciences cites numerous studies recommending “intensive, systematic instruction in small groups to students who score below the benchmark on universal screening.”
In reading, it is recommended that instruction address foundational reading skills identified through screening tools, and that small groups meet between three and five times a week for twenty to forty minutes each time.
In mathematics, the evidence indicates that instruction in these small groups should be explicit and systematic. Lessons should focus on common underlying structures in solving word problems, use visual representations, and build fluent retrieval of basic arithmetic facts.
Alsalamah, Areej. (2017). The Effectiveness of Providing Reading Instruction Via Tier 2 of Response to Intervention. International Journal of Research in Humanities & Social Sciences. 5(3), 6-17.
- Studies of Tier 2 instruction have not been done on schools where Tier 1 instruction is necessarily strong.
Anderson, Richard C., Hiebert, E., Scott, J., Wilkinson, I., Becker, W., and Becker, W. (1988). BECOMING A NATION OF READERS: THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON READING. Education and Treatment of Children, 11(4), 389–396.
- Cited here as the source of concerns about the differences in how lower-level and higher-level students are engaged by teachers.
Gersten, R., Beckmann, S., Clarke, B., Foegen, A., Marsh, L., Star, J. R., & Witzel, B. (2009). Assisting students struggling with mathematics: Response to Intervention (RtI) for elementary and middle schools (NCEE 2009-4060). Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.
Gersten, R., Compton, D., Connor, C.M., Dimino, J., Santoro, L., Linan-Thompson, S., and Tilly, W.D. (2008). “Assisting students struggling with reading: Response to Intervention and multi-tier intervention for reading in the primary grades. A practice guide. (NCEE 2009-4045).” Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.
Hoff, Naphtali. (2002). “An Analysis of Appropriate Groupings and Recommended Strategies and Techniques for Reading in the Classroom.” Independent Study Research Paper, Loyola University.
- Teachers tend to ask more stimulating questions when working with higher-level students.
Johnson, E. S., and Boyd, L. (2013). Designing Effective Tier 2 Reading Instruction in Early Elementary Grades with Limited Resources. Intervention in School and Clinic, 48(4), 203-209.
- Interventions should include knowledge-building activities.
Shaywitz, S. and Shawywitz, J. (2003). Overcoming dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. Alfred A. Knopf.