Reading and Math Interventions at the Secondary Level: A Research Brief
by Ashlee Lester, B.S. and David Naff, M.A. (December 2016)
Starting in the early 2000’s with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act, federal and state education authorities promoted the use of accountability policies that require schools to meet certain measures of academic progress overtime. Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) and Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) have become the new measure of school success. These policies rely heavily on students’ Math and Reading achievement at particular benchmark grades, leading local educational agencies (i.e. school divisions) to place increased emphasis on the reading and math results of state-mandated testing. In Virginia, pressures to meet AYP and AMOs by improving school performance on the Standards of Learning assessments – especially in academically underperforming schools – has to led to the adoption of various reading and math interventions designed to support student learning. While there is some broadening of school success criteria in the newly authorized Every Student Succeeds Education Act, it is likely that achievement in math and reading will still be a top priority in our education system. Therefore, even amidst changing policy, the importance of identifying and implementing effective interventions still exists.
At the secondary level, reading and math interventions play a unique role in student achievement. While there may be students that struggle with math and reading at the secondary level, in most cases secondary course work has moved beyond these basic skills. For example, high school English classes are literature-based, and the teachers at this level are not trained to teach reading skills. For this reason, many local school divisions have had to develop interventions that restructure the form and the content of the curriculum, and draw on new resources for addressing these needs. Strategies include increasing instructional time in math and reading, integrating math and reading skills across the curriculum, and purchasing off the shelf curriculums, many of which are computer based.
However, while the implementation of interventions has been widely accepted, some ambiguity still exists around which programs are most effective for school divisions to implement with their students. With hundreds of reading and math interventions available to school divisions, it can be challenging to select the most appropriate intervention for local schools. As a result, divisions often adopt multiple interventions that can sometimes appear to be fragmented. In accordance with the Regulations Establishing Accrediting Standards for Public Schools in Virginia (SOA), the Virginia Board of Education has published a list of recommended instructional interventions. While this list is beneficial, it still provides school divisions with a potentially overwhelming number of intervention options and provides little evidence that demonstrate their efficacy.1 As a result, school divisions are left to do their own research to decide which option is most appropriate to implement with their students.