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Plan Development

By: Rachel Brown, Ph.D., NCSP

This week’s blog focuses on the Plan Development step in the problem-solving model. This step is the third one in the problem-solving model:

  1. Problem identification
  2. Problem analysis
  3. Plan development
  4. Plan implementation
  5. Plan evaluation

Plan development requires looking both backward to prior data and forward to possible interventions and progress measures to identify what would be helpful for students needing assistance. In addition, plan development benefits from team deliberations that consider the logistics necessary for possible interventions.

Prior Data and Goal Setting

In order to develop a successful plan, the team needs to look at relevant prior data related to the student’s skills in the area(s) of concern. Such data can include the following information:

  • Screening scores
  • Classroom assessments
  • Grades
  • District and state assessments
  • Progress data

Many of these will have been reviewed as part of the problem analysis step and summaries of that review can be helpful during plan development. The important details to consider include:

  • What is the student’s current instructional level?
  • What skills does the student need to learn?
  • How does that level compare to the enrolled grade level?
  • What rate of improvement is necessary for the student to reach grade level?
  • If the student cannot reach grade level, what interim goal is possible?

The instructional level is defined as the level of material used for daily instruction. This level should match the specific skills that a student needs to learn next in order to advance along a continuum of learning goals. In some cases, the instructional level will be below the enrolled grade level. When this is the case, the team will need to consider how to arrange instruction that fits the student’s schedule and focuses on a higher rate of improvement (ROI) so that the student can catch up to peers. In some cases, the student will be so far behind that it will not be possible to catch up in the current school year. When this happens, the team needs to identify an interim goal for the current school year.

Possible Interventions

Once prior data have been reviewed and the goals for improvement identified, the team should review possible interventions in relation to the student’s specific learning needs. There are many published interventions that claim to be effective for improving students’ skills. That said, intervention publishers are not required to verify that an intervention has scientific evidence of its positive effects prior to making it available for purchase. For this reason, educators must examine the available evidence supporting interventions in order to select the ones that are truly evidence-based. There are several websites sponsored by universities or the U.S. Department of Education that provide detailed intervention reviews that can be very helpful in the plan development process.

These online resources provide a variety of tools that educators can use as part of plan development. Some of the sites (Best Evidence Encyclopedia, National Center for Intensive Intervention, and What Works Clearinghouse) include detailed reviews of the research articles about specific published programs. The others (Florida Center for Reading Research and Iris Center) include information about both research-based practices and important implementation logistics.

In order to make the plan development process easier at the local level, it can be very helpful if schools identify specific interventions that will be available for use by all teams. This process involves reviewing the evidence for possible interventions and then deciding which ones will be adopted for use. The selected interventions can be organized into a “menu” that teams consult during the plan development process. In addition to identifying approved interventions, schools can purchase intervention materials and provide regular professional development for the identified programs so that teachers are prepared and ready to use the programs once a plan is adopted.

Progress Measures

Once an intervention is identified, the next step in plan development is to select a progress measure that will document the student’s progress toward the goal. The progress measure needs to match the specific skill area that the intervention targets. FastBridge Learning®  offers a number of progress measures that can be used to track student improvement.

Reading Math
earlyReading (subtests) earlyMath (subtests)
CBMreading CBMmath-Automaticity

FastBridge Learning® recommends that progress monitoring be conducted weekly so that student progress can be reviewed on a regular basis.


In addition to identifying the best intervention and progress measure for an individual student’s needs, plan development requires attention to the logistics necessary for the plan to work. Specifically, the times, locations, and people involved in the plan need to be identified. A crucial aspect of effective intervention is adequate time in the student’s daily schedule. To be effective, academic interventions should be provided at least three times each week for 30 minutes. For students who are significantly behind, daily intervention, five times per week, is best. During plan development, the team should specify the days and times when the intervention will happen in the student’s schedule.

In addition to the schedule, it is important to identify who will provide the intervention. There are many options for intervention staffing. In some schools, all certified staff participate in interventions. In others, certain staff such as specialists or Title I teachers, provide interventions. Regardless of the personnel selected, it is essential that training for those providing intervention happen in advance so that the interventionists are ready to work with students once the plan is adopted. Due to the many different interventions available, training options vary. Some programs require intensive on-site sessions while others have online modules. One approach to training is for the school district to offer annual sessions for all of the interventions adopted as part of the district “menu.” Staff will also need training to use the progress measures. FastBridge Learning® has online training modules for all of its progress measures that include practice assessments and certification. There are also assessment fidelity checklists for all assessments that can be used to observe those who conduct progress monitoring.


Plan development involves considering an individual student’s screening data in order to identify intervention needs. Schools teams need to look at the student’s prior data in order to decide what type of instruction will meet the student’s current needs. The data review will also show what rate of improvement is needed to reach a specific learning goal. Although there are many intervention options, to be effective, teams need to review and select available programs in advance so they can be implemented quickly. In addition, teams need to select a progress measure that matches the target learning skill. There are also important logistics for teams to consider, including the days, times, and staff for intervention as well as any training needs. When all of these steps are followed, the plan development process will result in data-driven intervention and progress monitoring customized to the student’s specific learning need.

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