Evaluating Intervention Programs: A 5-Step Guide

Why Evaluating Intervention Programs is Crucial

If you’re reading this, chances are your school has some sort of intervention program in place, whether it’s Response to Intervention (RTI) or a multitiered system of support (MTSS). The education community has invested billions of dollars into providing this extra level of support for students. However, it’s time we acknowledge that these programs haven’t been effective and start discussing the importance of evaluating them.

In 2008, John Hattie’s research showed that intervention had a statistically significant impact (effect size) on student achievement. This finding became the basis for implementing intervention programs. However, subsequent research has revealed that despite the widespread use of interventions like RTI, they have not only been ineffective but have actually had an adverse effect in some schools.

So here’s the challenge: We need to figure out how to do RTI/MTSS correctly.

Examining the Effectiveness of Intervention Programs

Yes, intervention programs can work, but only under certain conditions. They work when they are supported by excellent Tier 1 instruction, incorporate research-based tools, are implemented with fidelity, and involve highly qualified educators working with students who need the most help.

If these four criteria aren’t met, then RTI or MTSS is likely costing your school or district a significant amount of time and money without making a meaningful impact on student performance. As administrators, there are five steps you can take to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs.

Five Steps to Assess Intervention Programs

Step one: Define what success means. Many schools implement RTI or MTSS simply because it’s what they’ve always done. However, it’s essential to calculate the return on investment in terms of time and money. While there are general benchmarks for success, each school system needs to determine its own definition and measure progress accordingly.

Keep in mind that intervention programs are designed to close gaps and help students catch up to their peers. A solid Tier 1 curriculum should already facilitate a year of growth for each student without intervention. So, success means moving a student from below grade level to a higher percentile, rather than maintaining the same percentile throughout the year.

Step two: Ensure the quality of Tier 1 instruction. If a school doesn’t have enough resources to provide interventions to all students in need, the problem lies in the core curriculum and instruction, not in the interventions themselves. It’s crucial to demand higher rigor and engagement from students, as increased rigor leads to better performance.

Step three: Evaluate the effectiveness of the tools being used. Not all interventions are equally effective. Take advantage of reputable resources such as the Florida Center for Reading Research or the What Works Clearinghouse to assess the validity and research base of the interventions you’re using.

Additionally, gather data on the success of each intervention group and compare it with a static benchmark. Analyzing the data in a disaggregated manner will reveal which interventions are truly achieving success.

Step four: Ensure fidelity of implementation. It takes time for interventions to yield results, but they can only be successful if implemented with the recommended intensity. Make sure students receive the full benefit of interventions by providing them with the necessary time and frequency.

Step five: Allocate staffing resources to support students with the greatest needs. While instructional aides and paraprofessionals play a valuable role in schools, it’s not effective to remove students with complex learning needs from the classroom led by a trained professional and place them solely with support staff. The most highly trained professionals should be working with the neediest students.

Imagine a scenario where certified teachers provide necessary interventions while instructional aides support students who are already achieving at grade level. Students with the greatest needs deserve the highest level of support.

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