Improving Practice: Four Essential Components Supporting Quality Reading Instruction

Four strategies and practices are common to effective reading instruction programs: multi-tiered systems of support; universal screening, progress monitoring, and collaboration between special education and general education. This article provides links to tools that support implementation in each area.

Schools have demonstrated that multi-tiered support systems can ensure that student needs are identified early and addressed with tailored and appropriate interventions that improve reading proficiency. Many federal and external efforts have been launched to strengthen the design of key elements of these systems and many new initiatives and organizations are working to support their implementation. Four strategies and practices are common to these efforts: multi-tiered systems of support; universal screening, progress monitoring, and collaboration between special education and general education.

Multi-Tiered Systems of Behavioral and Academic Support

A Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a framework designed to respond to the needs of all students within a system which integrates, but is not limited to, tiered behavior (e.g. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) and academic (e.g. Response to Intervention) supports.

MTSS is a whole-school, data-driven, prevention-based framework for improving learning outcomes for all students through a layered continuum of evidence-based practices and systems. (Source: Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports)

Key Tools for Implementing Multi-Tiered Systems of Support:

Universal Screening

Universal screening is a critical first step in identifying students who are at risk for experiencing reading difficulties and who might need more time in instruction or different instruction altogether. Screening is conducted to identify or predict students who may be at risk for poor learning outcomes. Universal screening assessments are typically brief and conducted with all students from a grade level. They are followed by additional testing or short-term progress monitoring to corroborate students’ risk status. Universal screening can be used for all academic subjects and for social and behavior assessment.

Key Tools for Implementing Universal Screening:

Progress Monitoring

A systematic process of using data for instructional decisions can improve teachers’ ability to meet their students’ learning needs. Using data to improve instruction is part of a cyclical process. This process involves teachers:

  1. collecting and preparing data about student learning from a variety of relevant sources (including annual, interim, and classroom assessment data);
  2. interpreting those data and determining factors contributing to students’ performance;
  3. using those factors to determine specific actions to meet students’ needs;
  4. implementing changes to their instructional practice and watching to see the effect they have;
  5. then, collecting and interpreting student performance data again to evaluate their own instructional changes (IES Practice Guide: Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision Making, 2009).

Key Tools for Implementing Progress Monitoring

Special Education and General Education Collaboration

Both general and special education teachers are responsible for teaching students with disabilities. Collaboration is a style of interaction between teachers voluntarily engaged in shared decision making as they work toward a common goal. When teachers work together, they share their expertise, their resources, and their support for the students. Collaboration requires that special educators become more adept in content knowledge and curriculum development, and that general educators understand their role in implementing IEP goals and objectives — that is, how to accommodate all students, including students with disabilities who spend the vast majority of their days in the general education classroom. (CEEDAR Center, Teacher Education Reform Initiatives and Special Education: Convergence, Divergence, and Missed Opportunities, 2014

Key Tools for Implementing Special Ed General Ed Collaboration

U.S. Department of Education (2017)

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