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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Strong intervention outcomes: what does it take?

June 24, 2009

Summertime always gives me a chance to reread some of the articles and reports that I can only skim through during busier times. This week, I revisited Teaching All Students to Read: Practices from Reading First Schools with Strong Intervention Outcomes from the Florida Center for Reading Research.

What's it take to get strong outcomes from your work with at risk readers? This report details seven common traits across the schools:

  • Strong Leadership
  • Positive Belief and Teacher Dedication
  • Data Utilization and Analysis
  • Effective Scheduling
  • Professional Development
  • Scientifically Based Intervention Programs
  • Parent Involvement

No surprises, but some important reminders. And two findings I'd like to highlight.

First, successful schools offered differentiated professional development. All teachers don't need the same training at the same time. Some veteran teachers need advanced training in some areas, while other teachers need support in developing a skill.

Second, successful schools planned the 30-45 minute intervention time to be in addition to (rather than part of) the 90-minute reading block. A school-wide decision to do that means fewer interruptions and transitions during the reading block. It can also help stagger intervention and specialist times, and pave the way for grade-level planning.

Good information to mull over on these hot summer days.


We have book clubs for the teachers. Teachers choose which professional development study they want to participate in and read and work together to implement new ideas and strategies. We have a 2 hr reading block and use data driven analysis-DRA and MAP testing to guide our instruction for shared reading and guided reading groups.

I disagree. It's not costly or difficult to give teachers differentiated PD. Use the resources in your district, in your own school. I'm sure there's a teacher who could show a group of other teachers how to differentiate with technology. I'm sure there's a teacher doing great things with scientifically based interventions or centers. I'm sure there's another teacher who might be doing great "hands-on" lessons who could show everyone else. Why should PD be expensive? Use twitter, blogs, and your own teacher leaders.

Myself and one of my colleagues always talked about differentiated professional development and the need for it. We begin to discuss this when we were force to sit through a series of workshops on differentiated instruction which the two of us were already very knowledgeable of and were already using it in our classrooms successfully! We were asking "Why are we here; we know this stuff?" The facilitator even asked why doesn't your principal have you two doing this workshop? This answers the question of how it can be done in a cost and time effective way? Most of the time we have people on staff at the school who can facilitate the workshops if we would just use our resources more wisely, we can do a lot of things that seem impossible.

I'm going to be thinking a lot more about differentiated professional development - it's a great concept but one that sounds really difficult to pull off (just as Not Hopeful wrote). How can schools offer it in a cost and time effective way?

Offering differentiated professional development seems like a pipedream. Most schools can't even offer half-way decent homogenous PD. These kinds of reports make me think there really is no hope for struggling schools. This stuff just sounds impossible to achieve!

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"I feel the need of reading. It is a loss to a man not to have grown up among books." —

Abraham Lincoln