How to Find the Right Intervention
Response to Intervention

How to Find the Right Intervention

June 23, 2016 0


Everyone agrees that we should be using scientific, research based interventions. But how do you do sift through so many interventions to find the right one? You can go directly to a website or brochure for more information, but what company will advertise itself as being unscientific, or not based on research? They are all slapped with the same labels: Common-Core aligned, research-based, evidence-based, nationally recognized, and more recently, blended learning, or iPad ready.


I’ll show you how to navigate the What Works Clearinghouse “Find What Works” tool to look past the flashy marketing to the legitimate research. What Works Clearinghouse identifies credible and reliable studies that show the effectiveness of interventions and disseminates summary information and free reports on the WWC website. You can customize your search to find results for specific demographic needs like:

…improving reading achievement for English language learners

…reducing dropout rates for high school students,

…improving fluency skills in fifth graders

…increasing math achievement in first graders


I recommend the following steps before beginning your research.

  • Look through your school and determine what interventions you already have (in their entirety). Some schools already have an organized collection of interventions targeting all components of literacy from which they can choose. But if your school looked anything like ones I’ve seen and worked in, you have a storage closet full of random, scattered pieces of intervention programs that have been used and tossed aside over the years: magnetic boards with missing alphabet squares, color-coded flash cards with word patterns rubber banded together and stored in milk crates, and shelves upon shelves of half finished workbooks. Your first step is to find out what you have.
  • Determine what you need from an ideal intervention. Do you need a phonics intervention or a comprehension intervention? Are you looking for an intervention that can be conducted as a whole class, in small groups, or with a one-on-one instructor? Do you need an intervention that is scripted and easy to follow for a teacher’s aide to implement, or does your reading interventionist have the capacity to teach an entire supplemental curriculum? Do you need an intervention that will fit within a thirty minute intervention block each day, or one that can be used three times a week for longer blocks? Do you have the resources to incorporate blended learning? Knowing what you need will help you narrow down your search. At minimum, a school should have a phonics, fluency, and comprehension program in their arsenal of interventions.


Step 1: Go to the WWC website and find the Find What Works search tool under the Resources tab.

WWC first page


Step 2: Select a topic to see more filters and refine your search by outcome domain, grade levels, effectiveness ratings, extent of evidence, delivery method, and program type as necessary.

This is an example of the results when I searched for a fluency intervention for third graders with positive or potentially positive results. I was searching for an intervention curriculum that could be administered in a small group setting, and found Corrective Reading.

WWC results page


Step 3: Download the full summary report. Summary reports give you a basic overview of the intervention as well as an effectiveness score, the research findings, and the breadth and reliability of that research.

WWC full report page


You may also want to check out the interventions that you currently have. Use the search engine on the top right to look up specific interventions.

WWC random search page




Do not just rely on the Intervention Effectiveness Rating alone when making intervention choices.

Make sure you really know what you are looking for as you read through the full report for interventions. For example, when looking for a comprehension intervention, it is easy to dismiss an intervention like Accelerated Reader because of its Effectiveness Rating of 0, and improvement index of only three points in reading comprehension.

But let’s say that you will be providing guided reading instruction for students and you are looking for a way to monitor the the impact of guided reading on students’ independent reading over the period of the intervention. You read the full report and realize that Accelerated Reader provides computer-based quizzes on almost every book imaginable and provides progress monitoring information to teachers. It is an ideal monitoring system for the effectiveness of your guided reading instruction.

The full report may also provide more insight into the Effectiveness Rating. For example, Corrective Reading has an Effectiveness Rating of 0 for comprehension, but the full report explains that the comprehension component was not given in the one study with review protocols that met WWC evidence standards.


Don’t limit your search by grade level.

Corrective Reading is an intervention targeting 4th-12th graders. But the studies that have been done included only third and fifth graders. That means that Corrective Reading will only show up as a third or fifth grade result. Open up your search to a range of grade levels to find a bigger range of results.


Keep your target demographic in mind when choosing interventions.

With this tip, I am specifically thinking about English Language Learners(ELLs). ELLs can easily get placed into Tier 2 and labeled as struggling readers because it can be difficult to discern a between a reading difficulty and low language proficiency. WCC helps you navigate this challenge by providing a specific Topic/Outcome Domain for ELLs. You can see which interventions are created for language proficiency versus reading achievement. You can also see how certain general interventions impact ELLs specifically.


Keep in mind that interventions tend to be more effective for elementary aged students and less effective for middle and high school aged students. This is not the fault of the intervention. It’s the reason why early intervention is so important. So don’t get discouraged when you see high improvement indexes in the 40’s for beginning reader interventions and improvement indexes in the teens when it comes to adolescent literacy. Those phonics and fluency gaps for middle and high school students do not translate as quickly into overall literacy achievement as they do in the primary grades because of the instructional time that has passed since those skills were taught. There are more layers to the challenges of older struggling students who have simply struggled for longer. But that does not mean these interventions are not absolutely essential to these students’ long term success.



I’ve included some recommendations for adolescent literacy. Please feel free to reach out to me with any further questions either for this range or elementary literacy at Sandra@GrowingReadersDC.com!


My Recommendation My Rationale
Phonics (Alphabetics) Corrective Reading Corrective Reading is a quick, scripted curriculum that provides many opportunities for student response. It is a lot quicker than more intensive programs like Wilson, and requires less training. It is a great Tier 2 intervention that quickly fills in student gaps and can flag deeper issues.
Fluency Read Naturally Read Naturally can be used through an iPad app or printed stories and audio recordings. It can be very student driven and also does not require an extensive training period.
Comprehension Tier 2
Accelerated Reader
Tier 3
READ 180
Accelerated Reader (AR) is a great tool to hold students accountable for their reading. If you are using guided reading or extended independent reading with high leverage conferencing as an additional literacy support, AR can determine the effectiveness of that support over time.
READ 180 addresses all components of literacy (alphabetics, fluency, and comprehension) within a 90 minute block in a variety of instruction models.


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