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Changing Interventions

By: Rachel Brown, Ph.D., NCSP

After interventions have been in place for a few weeks, it is important to review student progress and determine whether the intervention is working. A prior blog provided information about how to interpret progress data. This blog will explain factors to consider when a student needs an intervention change. Starting with reminders about having a sufficient number of data points and verifying intervention integrity, this entry will review the possible changes that can be made and how to update the progress monitoring schedule in the FastBridge system. Although most students will not require frequent intervention changes, when progress data indicate limited progress, knowing how to select intervention alternatives is important.

Sufficient Data and Intervention Integrity

Prior to contemplating an intervention change, it is important to be sure that the available data are interpretable. Two important steps related to interpretation are confirming that there are enough data (sufficiency) and that the intervention was implemented correctly (integrity).

Sufficiency. In order for data to be reliable, there must be enough data points measuring the target skill. As noted by Thornblad and Christ (2014), in order for a series of progress data to be reliable and valid six or more data points are necessary. A general rule about progress monitoring is that more data are more reliable. That said, if an intervention is not working, continuing to collect data does not make sense. A first step to determining if an intervention needs to be changed is to confirm whether there are sufficient data for decision making.

Integrity. In addition to reviewing the number of progress data points, it is also important to review information about whether the intervention was implemented with integrity. Integrity means that the intervention was implemented according to published directions. Unfortunately, some interventions do not accomplish their aims because they are not used correctly. Poor integrity can occur if an intervention does not follow the published procedures or script, if there is not enough time allocated for sessions, or if the sessions are too infrequent. Steps for confirming intervention integrity include having the teacher complete a self-evaluation and observations of interventions. Teacher self-ratings are less cumbersome but might not be as accurate as observations of intervention sessions. As teams review data and consider intervention changes, confirming intervention integrity is essential.

Possible Changes

When both sufficient data and intervention integrity are certain, teams can follow the steps outlined in a prior blog to determine if an intervention has been effective. In general there are three possible interpretations of progress data:

  1. The intervention really worked,
  2. The intervention sort of worked, or
  3. The intervention did not work.

For situations when the intervention sort of worked, or did not work, a different approach to supporting the student is needed. When an intervention sort of worked, changes to the current intervention might be effective in boosting student progress. Methods to consider include adjusting the frequency, duration, and/or group size.

Frequency. One way to increase the “dosage” of an intervention is to provide more frequent sessions. This change will only work if there are additional time slots when the intervention could be conducted. For example, if the intervention is currently provided three times a week, then perhaps two additional sessions could be added each week so that it is provided five days a week.

Duration. Another method to increase the total number of instructional minutes is to make sessions longer. Again, the capacity to do this will vary, but if it is possible to provide longer intervention sessions, this can strengthen the “dose” as well. It will depend on the intervention type whether a frequency or duration change is better, but both are important options to consider.

Group Size. In some cases the best way to strengthen an intervention is to reduce the number of students in the group. When a group is smaller, each student is able to engage with the learning more often which can increase learning over time. Not all interventions will be more effective with a smaller group size, but it is another option to consider.

Another Intervention. When an intervention did not work at all, a different approach is needed. When considering an entirely different intervention, it is very important to review the available data that indicate the student’s instructional need. It is possible that the first intervention did not work because it provided instruction in the wrong skill. For example, If a student needs decoding instruction but was provided a fluency intervention, it is unlikely to work. Before changing to an entirely different intervention, the team needs to look carefully at the data to confirm the learning need. With the specific learning need confirmed, a different intervention can be selected.

Adjusting the Progress Monitoring Schedule

Any intervention changes should be accompanied by an update to the student’s FastBridge progress monitoring schedule. If the student can be monitored in the same progress assessment as before, then the current schedule can be edited. If the progress measure needs to change, then a new progress monitoring schedule needs to be created.

Editing a Progress Monitoring Schedule. To edit a schedule, log in to the FastBridge system and select the progress monitoring function tab. The current progress groups will display in the left vertical menu. Select the group for the student whose schedule will change. This will open a window with a list of the students in the group. Click on the name of the student and Edit Group.

This will open the students’ progress monitoring schedule screen. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click on Create New Intervention.

This will open the intervention pop up window. Enter the details for the new intervention and click on Save. This will update the summary of interventions at the bottom of the screen to include the new one as well.

Changing the Progress Measure. In situations where the intervention change requires a new progress measure, the student must first be released from the current progress monitoring group. To do this open the Progress Monitoring tab as above. Select the group and student, then click on Release Students. A pop up window will ask if you are sure you want to release the student; click on OK.

Once the student is released from the current progress monitoring group, you can set up a new progress monitoring schedule using a different measure.

It is important to review student progress data regularly to be certain that students are making adequate progress. For students whose data indicate limited or no progress, changing the intervention is the next step. Possible changes include making the intervention more frequent, longer, including fewer students, or using a totally different intervention. Such changes should be recorded in the FastBridge progress monitoring record. When the progress measure will remain the same, the current progress monitoring schedule can be edited, but if the progress measure will change, the student must be released from the current schedule and a new one created.

Reference

Thornblad, S.C., & Christ, T.J. (2014). Curriculum-based measurement of reading: Is 6 weeks of daily progress monitoring enough? School Psychology Review, 19-29.

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