Intro to Intervention Strategies for Secondary Students

Nov 09, 2023
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As educators, we know that not all students learn at the same pace or in the same way. Some students may struggle with certain concepts, skills, or topics, while others may excel. How can we help all students reach their full potential and achieve their learning goals? One answer is to use intervention strategies.

However, secondary students need more diverse learning experiences than their younger counterparts, such as preparation for college, critical thinking skills, and interdisciplinary projects. Secondary students may also have more autonomy and responsibility for their own learning, such as setting goals, choosing activities, and managing time. Therefore, intervention strategies for secondary students should consider these factors and provide support and guidance.

In this article, we will explore some of the key differences between intervention strategies for secondary and elementary students based on research and best practices. We will also provide some examples and tips on how to implement them in your classroom.

Learning the Basics: Tiered Levels of Support

Multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) is a common intervention framework with three support tiers: universal (tier 1), targeted (tier 2), and intensive (tier 3). Universal support refers to the core curriculum and instruction that is provided to all students. Targeted support refers to the additional interventions provided to small groups of students who need more support than the core curriculum. Intensive support refers to the individualized interventions provided to students who need the most support.

This framework works for both elementary and secondary schools, but they use it differently. For example, in elementary school, one teacher teaches all the subjects to the same students and gives them the basic support they need. In secondary school, different teachers teach different subjects to different students and give them the basic support they need. This means that secondary teachers must work together more and make sure their instruction in different subjects is consistent.

Some tips for implementing tiered levels of support include:

  • Assess the student’s needs and strengths before determining the level and type of support.
  • Use data-based decision making to monitor the student’s progress and adjust the support as needed.
  • Provide clear and consistent communication among teachers, specialists, paraprofessionals, parents, and students.
  • Use evidence-based practices that match the student’s needs and goals.

For example, a small cohort of incoming high school freshmen are identified as struggling in grade-level reading through regular screening that occurs throughout the year. That cohort is rescheduled into an intensive reading program as one of their electives, a common Tier II intervention.

Unfortunately, one member of that cohort is still struggling according to the next screening. As they have also had more time to observe the student in the classroom setting, the teachers in concert with specialists determine that the student requires intensive behavioral support to avoid off-task behavior, potentially because of a learning disability. The student is recommended for Tier III intervention, a self-contained schedule staffed by a behavioral specialist. If a future screening shows significant progress, the student may move back to Tier II support.

Interested in learning more about tiered intervention? Discover how to support tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3 students with proven programs.

A Few Key Differences Between Intervention at the Secondary level vs. Elementary level:

Course-specific interventions

A key difference between intervention strategies for secondary and elementary students is that secondary interventions are more course-specific than elementary interventions. This means that secondary interventions focus more on helping students master the specific concepts and skills needed to progress to the next course.

For example, how can you help a student who has moved from 8th to 9th grade and is having trouble with Algebra I, a key course that also has an end-of-course exam in many states, because they are missing skills found in its prerequisite, Pre-algebra? How can you prevent the student from falling behind and guide them through the intervention process? Or how can you offer an acceleration path for those 8th or 9th graders who may only struggle in certain Algebra I skills?

Course-specific interventions are important for secondary students because they help them meet the higher academic standards and expectations that they face in their courses. Course-specific interventions also help them prepare for high-stakes assessments and post-secondary options that require specific knowledge and skills.

Some examples of content-specific interventions are:

  • Math: Explicit instruction on math concepts and procedures, guided practice with feedback, error analysis, peer tutoring.
  • Reading comprehension: Reciprocal teaching (predicting, questioning, clarifying, summarizing), graphic organizers (main idea/details), text structure analysis (compare/contrast).
  • Writing: Self-regulated strategy development (goal setting, planning, drafting, revising), peer review (feedback), genre-specific instruction (narrative, expository).
  • Science: Inquiry-based learning (questioning, hypothesizing, experimenting, analyzing), concept mapping (relationships), mnemonic devices (recall).
  • Social studies: Historical thinking skills (sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating), evidence-based argumentation (claims, warrants, evidence), project-based learning (authentic tasks).

In the case of the student struggling in Algebra I, the teacher may use a formative assessment program to isolate the specific skills that are holding the student back from large-scale math success. Through some intensive remediation after school or at home, the student fills those learning gaps while maintaining their place in the Algebra I curriculum. As more gaps are filled, the student makes rapid progress over the school year.

Student-centered interventions

Another difference between intervention strategies for secondary and elementary students is that secondary interventions are more student-centered than elementary interventions. This means that secondary interventions involve more input and choice from the students themselves, rather than being prescribed by the teachers or specialists. Secondary students benefit from student-centered interventions that foster autonomy and responsibility, crucial for college and career readiness. Interventions also help students increase their motivation and engagement in learning, which is often lower among secondary students.

Student-centered interventions can take various forms, such as:

  • Goal setting: Students set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely (SMART) goals for their learning and monitor their progress toward them.
  • Self-monitoring: Students keep track of their own behavior, performance, or progress on a task or skill using checklists, charts, or graphs.
  • Self-regulation: Students use strategies to plan, organize, manage, and evaluate their own learning processes and outcomes.
  • Self-assessment: Students reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses, identify areas for improvement, and set goals for future learning.
  • Self-reinforcement: Students reward themselves for achieving their goals or completing their tasks using positive self-talk, praise, or tangible rewards.

Unlike elementary students, secondary students can do basic analysis of their results on a screening or formative assessment, recognize they are underperforming, and probably have key insights into why. Perhaps with some coaching, they can then take ownership of the plan to catch themselves back up.

Concentrated Interventions at the Secondary Level

Secondary students' advanced maturity and tight schedules, driven by a targeted graduation date, enable them to access concentrated interventions tailored to quickly address any gaps—in both their knowledge and their transcripts, including:

Credit recovery enables students to retake a course or complete an alternative task for credit if they have failed or lack the credits to stay on schedule. You can offer credit recovery online, in person, or in a blended format, depending on the availability of resources and the preferences of the students. Credit recovery can help students who have fallen behind to catch up and stay on track for graduation.

Unit recovery is a strategy that allows students who have failed a unit or a major assessment in a course to redo the unit or assessment and show mastery of the content. You can offer unit recovery during or after school hours, or during breaks or intersessions. Unit recovery can help students who have gaps in their learning to fill those gaps and improve their grades.

Career & technical education (CTE) offers students work-based learning, relevant coursework, industry certifications and dual enrollment programs to prepare for careers. CTE can help students who are interested in specific fields or occupations to gain the skills and knowledge they need to pursue their goals, whether or not that includes college. CTE can also help students who are unsure about their plans to discover their interests and passions.

Successful schools and districts view programs like these as vital for a well-rounded secondary education strategy. We’ll look at how some of these more intensive programs work and what results they can produce in a later article.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every student or every school. Educators need to use data and evidence to determine which strategies are most appropriate and effective for their students and to monitor their progress and outcomes regularly. Educators also need to collaborate with each other and with other stakeholders to ensure that they implement the interventions with fidelity and quality.

By using intervention strategies that are tailored to the needs and interests of secondary students, educators can help them overcome their challenges, enhance their strengths, and achieve their goals.

Interested in learning more about how Exact Path can support secondary intervention? Check out this brochure for more information. And consult the Edmentum Courseware Course Catalog to begin your credit recovery or CTE journey.

The learning continues with the second article in our series on intervention in the secondary grades, How to Help Secondary Students Succeed: Credit Recovery, Concept/Skill Recovery, and CTE.

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