Monday, February 29, 2016

Review of Research-Based Reading Intervention Programs Used for Response to Intervention

            In traditional urban school systems, students exhibiting academic, behavioral, and/or social/emotional learning deficits are provided few options.  Should the teacher or parents believe such deficits exhibit a major concern, then the student is often evaluated through special education or other categorical programs such as Title I, ESL, or literacy services, etc….  Since NCLB (2001) the Response to Intervention (RTI) movement has resulted in at-risk students with learning and/or behavioral challenges being provided more flexible and responsive service options without having to rely solely on special education.  In contrast to previous traditional assessment and service delivery models, an RTI approach offers several key differences:
(1) emphasizes early intervention in the typical, general education learning environment,
(2) maximizes all staff’s expertise and services, and makes effective use of all existing resources,
(3) intends to assess the student’s strengths and weaknesses based on their academic performance or behavior in the regular educational setting,
(4) delivers interventions regular educational setting and interventions are based on reliable and measurable information,
(5) response to the intervention is directly and frequently monitored and charted, and
(6) intends to de-emphasize categories and labels while encouraging creativity, problem solving, and providing support to students in a timely manner.
            The RTI approach presents a problem-solving model for schools.  As such, this model allows application of a systemic, school-wide problem-solving approach.  Therefore, rather than perceptions or assumptions, effective curriculum and instructional decisions are based on collected and analyzed student-centered data.
Vacca & Padak (1990) find at-risk learners are seldom more academically vulnerable than during instructional situations that require them to engage in acts of literacy.  Kletzien & Bednar (1990) view at-risk readers as students who see themselves “as poor learners who have limited aptitude to benefit from educational opportunities.  They are at risk by being constantly discouraged and by having an inadequate understanding of their own learning abilities and potential” (p 528). 
As noted in the January 2016 blog post, most research-based reading intervention programs utilize a phonemic and phonological awareness approach as the foundation for their model of reading intervention.  The most effective reading programs for at-risk students utilize a multisensory and systematic approach ( Ehri, Nunes, Willows, Schuster, Yaghoub-Zadeh, & Shanahan, 2001; Kim, Wagner, & Lopez, 2012; Kruidenier, MacArthur, Wrigley, 2010).  Many RTI initiatives utilize these approaches within Tier 3 (Intensive) reading programs.  Research by Slavin, Lake, Davis, and Madden, (2009) found one-to-one intervention effective for students at-risk for reading failure.  This blog post will identify tenets and critiques of some of the most popular reading programs utilized as Tier 3 RTI.
The aim of the Reading Recovery® program is to reduce the number of children that experience difficulty with reading and writing.  Specially trained Reading Recovery® teachers identify children for the program.  The identified children “are the lowest achievers in the first-grade cohort as evidenced on a standardized test and the Diagnostic Survey (Clay, 1985), excluding none” (Lyons, 1989, p 126).  The Reading Recovery® approach to identifying at-risk students involves a relative notion of risk, rather than an absolute one.  Students are selected for the Reading Recovery® intervention program because of their performance relative to their classmates according to teacher judgment and performance on a diagnostic battery.
During the Reading Recovery® intervention program, children are pulled out of their classrooms each day for thirty-minute individual lessons.  The lessons supplement regular classroom instruction for 12 to 20 weeks.  The Reading Recovery® program does not rely on consumable materials or step-by-step programs.  Rather, the knowledgeable Reading Recovery® teacherdevelops an individualized lesson for each child.  Each lesson provides the child with an opportunity to think and problem solve while reading and writing.  A detailed, daily running record is kept of the student’s progress and the teacher then designs the next day’s lesson (Lyons, 1989).
Reading Recovery® is available on a nonprofit, no royalty basis.  Reading Recovery® in the United States is a collaboration between universities and school districts.  Therefore program costs include tuition for initial training and continuing professional development.  Establishment of a Reading Recovery® site requires training of a teacher leader.  Additional start-up costs include the teacher leader’s salary, the university tuition for the Reading Recovery® coursework, and costs for books and materials.  Each site must provide a “cognitive lab” (a room with a one-way mirror and sound system), which will optimize subsequent training for teachers.  Trained teacher leaders work at the site level and provide professional development to subsequent Reading Recovery® teachers.  Subsequent costs support the teacher leader and a proportional part of the Reading Recovery® teachers’ salaries and benefits.  Specially trained Reading Recovery®  teachers work part of the day implementing Reading Recovery® interventions and the balance of the day in assigned duties such as classroom teaching or providing small group literacy instruction.  Data reported for 2010-2011 identifies the average Reading Recovery® teacher in the United States provided eight students with Reading Recovery® interventions and provided instruction to nearly 40 additional students. 
Reading Recovery® is not meant to be a perfect program for every need.  It is an intervention that appears best suited for students with moderate reading or language disorders.  Evidence identifies Reading Recovery as a successful early intervention reading program
Reading Recovery® also has its critics.  Center, Wheldall, Freeman, Outhred, & McNaught (1995); Rasinski (1995); and Shanahan & Barr (1995) all level criticism on its methodological effectiveness.  Hiebert (1994) questions the level of gains that are maintained over time. Dudley-Marling & Murphy (1997) criticize the Reading Recovery® program for maintaining the “status quo by protecting the structure of schools” (p 460).  A What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) report on the Reading Recovery® program identified 202 studies that investigated Reading Recovery® in relation to the reading skills of at risk beginning readers (U.S. Department of Education, 2013).  While only three of the initial five studies reviewed by Chapman and Tunmer (2015) met WWC evidence standards, Chapman and Tunmer still felt justified in suggesting “there is little empirical evidence to indicate that successful completions in Reading Recovery result in sustained literacy achievement gains.  On the contrary, there is strong evidence indicating students who have received Reading Recovery® benefit little from the program” (p. 6). 
However, a WWC report (2013) found Reading Recovery® to have positive effects on general reading achievement and potentially positive effects on alphabetics, reading fluency, and comprehension for beginning readers.  In response to critics, it is only logical to believe sustained student progress will depend upon subsequent support, both in school and at home.  This logic reinforces the published beliefs of Clay (2005):
Children who successfully complete early literacy interventions like Reading Recovery should operate in reading and writing in ways that put them on track for being silent readers with self-extending systems during the next two years at school. With good classroom instruction and moderate personal motivation that should be achievable. (p. 52).
            Teachers trained in Reading Recovery® procedures succinctly observe student literacy behaviors.  Running records and observation monitor the student’s changes in reading behaviors, what elements of literacy the student attends to, and how the student resolves problem during reading.  Teachers trained in Reading Recovery® procedures also focus on the child’s strengths while attending to areas needing development in the context of reading continuous text within real books and through writing authentic messages (Clay, 2005).
            The Wilson Language Training® (WLT) empowers individual educators, schools, and districts to achieve literacy with all students.  Approximately 25,000 teachers in United States schools have achieved WRS Level I Certification.  While WLT initially focused solely on the education of teachers who were working with individuals with dyslexia, since 2002 WLT programs provide professional development to the general education classroom teachers as well.
WLT serves as a provider of research-based reading and spelling programs for all ages. Its programs offer a multisensory and structured curricula.  Programs include Fundations®, Wilson Just Words®, the Wilson Reading System®, and Wilson Fluency®/Basic.  The approaches utilized within WLT programs have proven highly effective (Melby-Lervåg, Lyster, & Hulme, 2012).
The Wilson Reading System® exhibit potentially positive effects on alphabetics but no discernible effects on fluency and comprehension.  One study, which included more than 70 third-grade students in Pennsylvania, used a modified version of Wilson Reading System®.  The study met the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards.  As a result, of their literature review (2007), the WWC considered the extent of evidence for Wilson Reading System® to be small for alphabetics, fluency, and comprehension.  No studies meeting WWC evidence standards, with or without reservations, addressed general reading achievement. 

               Reading Rescue® provides a systematic reading intervention model based on tenets of Reading Recovery® (Clay, 1993).  Ehri, Dreyer, Flugman, and Gross (2007) found Reading Rescue® to be an effective tutoring intervention model for first-grade struggling readers.  The Reading Rescue® program offers staff development designed to implement the intensive early intervention program.  Using trained tutors rather than certified reading specialists, the intervention specifically targets students who will benefit from one-on-one instruction to reach grade-level reading.  Training tutors rather than reading specialists offers school districts a less expensive alternative to providing Tier 3 RTI.
The Reading Rescue® program’s twelve-part professional development protocol is delivered over two-years.  The structured training seeks to equip participating staff with knowledge and skills typically associated with reading specialists.  Ideally, this approach increases the school’s culture of high expectations for successful literacy and builds the school's capacity to promote learning for all students.  However, one reality of a cost-efficient two-year plan for professional development is that at-risk students may not be served by tutors as fully trained as those studied by Ehri, et. al (2007), thereby impacting the generalizability of those findings.  Additionally, spreading the full training protocol over two years, may adversely impact the necessary development and implementation of a systemic process for subsequent monitoring of program completers for sustained success. 

            Since 1973, the Project Read® curriculum (Greene and Enfield) has provided an intervention program to be delivered in the regular classroom by the regular classroom teacher.  As such, Project Read® can be considered for Tier 1 or Tier 2 RTI rather than primarily Tier 3 RTI.  The Phonics Strand of the program is based on the Orton-Gillingham method.  The Reading Comprehension and Written Expression Strands are based on three foundational principles:
1. Direct instruction of the concepts and skills of language
2. Presentation of concepts and skills in their dependent order, from simplest to most complex
3. Multisensory strategies and materials created specifically for each concept and skill
            The Project Read®  curriculum has been successful for students in K-12, ESL/ELL, Special Education, and Title I Reading programs.  The Project Read curriculum strands include Phonics, Reading Comprehension, and Written Expression.  Using multisensory activities and direct instruction, the Project Read phonics program uses a systematic teaching approach for decoding, encoding, and reading comprehension strategies. 
            Related to its potential use as Tier 3 RTI, Project Read® Phonology Strand was found to have no discernible effects on general reading achievement for students with learning disabilities (WWC, 2010).  The WWC review of the effectiveness of Project Read® Phonology was based on Acalin (1995).  That study included 66 students with learning disabilities in kindergarten through grade 4 from five school districts.  As a result, the WWC considered the extent of evidence for Project Read® Phonology on students with learning disabilities to be small for general reading achievement.

               Regardless of the intervention, it is crucial to recognize teaching does not entail instruction alone.  A highly qualified teacher will understand the ongoing relationship between the curriculum, his or her instruction, and ongoing assessment of learning.  Competency regarding this relationship should be exhibited through increased classroom assessment literacy whereby standards-based instruction is continually provided and monitored through diverse and consistent formative and criterion assessments.
            Providing instructional leaders with the skills to advance these competencies and promoting professional development in the area of classroom assessment literacy will address the need to optimize learning and sustain success.  Professional development that promotes literacy instruction grounded in the philosophies and principles advocated by Marie Clay, Jeanne Chall, Richard Anderson, David Rumelhardt, Kenneth Goodman, and current contemporaries in reading theory will help an effective school reach its reading goals.  Such an endeavor exhibits the vision for excellence in education and promotes the mission of learning for all. 
            Undoubtedly, programs that utilize a phonemic and phonological awareness approach in a multisensory, systemic reading intervention model offers research-based Tier 3 RTI.  However, for at least two years following successful participation in any early intervention program, the effective school needs to ensure the student is exposed to “good classroom instruction and moderate personal motivation that should be achievable” (Clay, 2005, p. 52).  Next month’s post will address the need for a systemic follow up program for successful completers of early intervention reading programs.  A follow-up program needs to offer techniques that address the students’ “affective needs to help them see themselves as capable learners and good thinkers” (Coley & Hoffman, 1990, p 497).

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To cite:
Anderson, C.J. (February 29. 2016) A review of research-based reading intervention programs used for
               Response to Intervention. [Web log post] Retrieved from