The Importance of Effective Intervention

by Laurie Kimbrel, Ed.D.

Over the course of my career, I have blogged and written extensively about the need for all students to succeed at high levels. By now, most understand that success in an economy driven by technology, innovation and service will require both content knowledge as well as a set of underlying skills such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Both our own common sense and research tell us that our students must be prepared for learning beyond high school in college, job training and apprenticeship programs. But how do we ensure that all students are ready when they are only with us in schools for a few years? The answer lies in both effective classroom instruction as well as effective intervention.

We know that all students can learn, however, some students need more time and more support. In the past, many school systems waited for students to fail or fall far behind to intervene. Summer school was offered when students failed a course and the student needed to repeat the entire course regardless of content that had been previously mastered. Special education was sometimes offered as a last resort when frustrated staff didn’t know what else to do. In contrast, imagine a school system where student outcomes are clearly identified, where there is high quality instruction in every classroom and where TIMELY intervention is available for EVERY student at the first sign of a struggle. What if students didn’t have to wait for help until they had already failed?

The best intervention is prevention and so our most important work actually begins with a strong core instructional program in every classroom for every student. Approximately 80% of students who receive a well instructed, research-based curriculum should experience success as a result of initial instruction in the classroom.

In order to ensure that all students learn at high levels, it is also necessary to create intervention plans to assist students who need support.  Plans should have the following characteristics:

  • Tiered support – some students need a little help and some need a lot of help. Our interventions offer various levels of assistance based on the needs of the student.
  • Directive – interventions must be mandatory. We can’t claim that our mission is to ensure that all students learn at high levels and then allow our students to “choose” to fail.
  • Administered by trained professionals – systems must be in place so that the professionals with the most expertise in a given area are able to deliver intervention. This notion is based on a medical model. If you have the flu, you can see the physician’s assistant, but if you have cancer, you need the oncologist.
  • Targeted – intervention is very specific to the student and the standard in which he or she needs assistance. Using a reliable system of assessment in the classroom ensures that we identify specific areas of intervention.
  • Timely – effective intervention occurs promptly, not after an F grade has been given for the course. Also, interventions should only be as long as needed, a student should not have to languish in intervention past the point where it is helpful.

If you would like additional information on effective intervention:

An easy to read article –

“The Why Behind RtI” by Austin Buffum, Mike Mattos and Chris Weber

A great book –

“Simplifying Response to Intervention”

by Austin Guffu, Mike Mattos and Chris Weber





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