Now What? Closing the Loop on Intervention in the Elementary Classroom

Designing and implementing interventions can be hard, but the payoff is big. As teachers, we make sure that our students are learning, however that may be.

By Rachel Wilser

When you have students receiving interventions, there are 2 possible outcomes at the end of a six-week data cycle: either your students are making progress and responding to the interventions, or they’re not. We’ll talk about each of these outcomes, and what the next steps would be for each.

Let’s first discuss students who ARE making progress. First, take a minute to celebrate—your hard work is paying off! Whatever you’re doing to support this student is helping them to overcome their barriers to learning. It can be tempting to ease up on their interventions and reintegrate this student into Tier 1 (the majority of student who don’t need additional support), but that’s not always the next best move. For students who were significantly behind, they likely need a new set of goals and interventions to help them continue to make progress and close the gap between them and their peers.

Students who make progress during interventions are indicating that what you’re doing is working, not necessarily that they’ve leveled out with their grade level peers. At the end of this six-week period, you’re likely meeting with some other people to discuss this student—your grade level partner, your grade level special education teacher, your literacy/math coach—and the other teachers in this meeting can help you form your next steps. Maybe it’s to just continue the status quo; if you’re student is still making progress, but still needs to work on this skill to achieve a larger goal that would be logical. It’s also possible you might count some of the goals as met, so you might set new goals for this student. For example, if you were working on 1:1 correspondence with a student they might show mastery of that goal in 6 weeks. You might then create a new goal for them around place value, for example. If your students continue to show progress, you’re going to continue this process every six weeks until they either don’t show progress OR they’ve achieved all of their goals.

Now, let’s talk about the other side of the coin: students who didn’t make progress during their six-week intervention. First, we have to eliminate any fidelity issues—were the students in school daily (or almost daily)? Were they routinely receiving their intervention? If the students were in school, receiving their invention daily (or as scheduled) then we need to look at the goals. Were the goals appropriate? If the goals were too hard, they it will be hard to show progress.

Assuming that students were in school, receiving their intervention, with appropriate goals then the next step is to move them forward through whatever your school’s established student support process is. This meeting should involve your grade-level special education teacher, because this is who determines if this student needs to have more data collected, or if the data currently shows that they are a candidate for special education testing. In nonpublic schools, the process of special education testing can vary widely. Some larger schools may test their own students, whereas smaller schools may refer their students out to the local public school district for testing. In either case, your interventions should continue while students are being tested. After the testing, you’ll have a meeting that involves all stakeholders (you, special education teacher, parent, social worker, etc.) to discuss the results. If the student qualifies for an IEP (individual education plan), you’ll be legally obligated to meet the goals within, so it pays off to engage positively in these meetings, giving your expert opinion as an educator.

Designing and implementing interventions can be hard, but the payoff is big. As teachers, we make sure that our students are learning, however that may be.

This article wraps a three-month series on how to academically support all students in your classroom. Next month, we’ll start talking about students who need behavior support.

Rachel Wilser has spent the better part of a decade in classrooms around the country — in private, public, charter, elementary, and middle schools. Now, she chases twins and drinks coffee while planning her return to the classroom.