By: Rachel Brown, Ph.D., NCSP
Plan implementation is the fourth step in the problem-solving model:
- Problem identification
- Problem analysis
- Plan development
- Plan implementation
- Plan evaluation
This step involves providing the selected intervention with integrity for the student(s) who need support. In order for plans to be implemented effectively teams need to make arrangements for time, materials, daily intervention sessions, and progress monitoring.
Time in the Schedule
Without question, the most important implementation step is making sure that there is time in the student’s daily schedule for intervention sessions. Unless time is allocated for the extra instruction, it is very unlikely to happen. The ideal way to allocate intervention time is to build it into the school’s master schedule. Given that some students will always need additional instruction, and that all students can benefit from enrichment, including a “skills” block in the daily schedule is an ideal way to ensure adequate time for intervention. Such blocks are typically about 30 minutes in length at least three days a week but having them five days is even better for students who need more support. The benefit of having a daily skills block is that the time can be used by all students for personalized learning. For students needing to catch up, the sessions can include targeted instruction on key skills. For students who are at or above grade level the sessions can be used for enrichment or acceleration.
Once time has been allocated for intervention, another step is to make sure that the right materials are available. As outlined in the prior blog, careful selection of evidence-based interventions is important. But, even the best interventions will not be helpful if the necessary materials are not available. For the most common learning problems, it is possible to estimate the numbers of students who will participate in the extra sessions using the prior year’s screening data. Such estimates can be used to purchase materials before the school year begins. Certainly, some students will have more unique learning needs and it will take more time to get specialized materials, but for most interventions, materials can be ordered in advance. An important feature of tiered supports is providing students with timely intervention in their specific areas of need. When the materials necessary for adopted interventions are in the building and ready to go, students can get help as quickly as possible.
Daily Intervention Sessions
This is where student progress happens. The actual delivery of daily teaching sessions can yield important gains for students as long as the interventions are implemented with integrity. Such integrity includes sticking to the schedule and using the program materials as intended. How easy it is to deliver the lessons according to the plan will vary for each intervention. Many published interventions have implementation checklists that can help teachers know whether they have completed all procedures. There will be some interruptions in interventions at every school due to student or staff absences, special events or even fire drills. The key is to adhere to the schedule and materials during lessons and to avoid missing sessions.
Treatment integrity. Implementing the lessons as planned is important because only when the plan has been followed is it possible to conclude that the observed changes in student performance were the result of the intervention. If a student has not made progress, teams should check and verify that the intervention was implemented with integrity. If it was, then the team can engage in additional problem solving to find an effective solution for the student. If the review indicates that the intervention was not implemented with integrity, then more instructional sessions that follow the correct steps should be conducted and the data reviewed.
Student progress can be reviewed when there are enough data from progress monitoring to show if the student is making improvements. FastBridge Learning® offers a number of progress measures for reading and math. Students participating in interventions should complete progress assessments at least monthly, but ideally weekly. Usually, it takes from 9 to 12 data points in order to see a reliable change in student skills. That said, if a student’s data indicates no response after 3 or 4 data points, and the intervention was implemented with integrity, it is okay to try another intervention sooner. Both students and teachers benefit from looking at the progress data each week so that they can keep track of improvement.
Plan implementation is the problem-solving stage when the carefully selected intervention is put into place to improve student learning outcomes. In order for plan implementation to work smoothly, it is important for time to be allocated in the daily schedule, materials to be ordered, and for the intervention to be conducted with integrity. When all of these steps are in place, the student’s progress data should be reviewed at regular intervals to determine if the expected gains have been made. If some of the implementation steps have not been followed, the intervention might lack integrity and the data might not be accurate. In such cases, the team should take steps to correct any problems before reviewing the data. In most cases, students will show improvement and teams can celebrate.