The Key to a Better Reading Intervention Program

If you’re looking to improve your school’s intervention program, and streamline services for students, then you definitely need to get serious about your school’s referral process. Don’t really have one? Well you’re in the right place!

The key to a better intervention program is making sure the you’ve identified the right students for the right services. Otherwise you could end up under-serving, or over-serving, your student population. And you might end up dismissing students too early from the program, or students could end up with a life sentence to intervention. Yikes! The answer to all of this is establishing clear entrance criteria.

Entrance criteria are established thresholds that students are required to meet in order to qualify for intervention. They’re slightly different than benchmarks because entrance criteria represent the bare minimum of student performance, while benchmarks represent desired outcomes at a particular point in time.


But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about the steps teachers need to take to get your intervention program on track.


Your elementary school should start with common reading assessments that measure key literacy components: phonological awareness, alphabet letters and sounds, phonics, and high frequency words (Check out my Early Lit Kit for an all-in-one solution for grades K-2). You’ll also want to include a standardized Running Record assessment system among your data. Along with your assessments you’ll want to be sure that all personnel are well-trained and follow strict administration protocols, otherwise your data could be skewed, or even worse invalid.


An important part of assessment training is how to properly score them. Once you’re confident that staff is scoring the assessment accurately they should record them on a class composite (see my Early Lit Kit to download a free copy). Teachers should compare their students’ scores to established benchmarks and clearly identify which scores fall below those benchmarks.

Entrance Criteria

Teachers should complete an entrance criteria sheet on every student whose scores reflect a possible need for intervention based on the benchmark comparison (click here to get your copy of the entrance criteria that match my Early Lit Kit assessments). Remember, entrance criteria are lower than benchmarks because they represent scores that are close to meeting the benchmarks but not yet on grade level. And your school’s entrance criteria should match your common assessments.

Meet As a Team

Now’s the time to discuss your students’ needs and review the scores at your grade level. Teachers should aim to identify which students fall the farthest below the entrance criteria and consider these students as top priority for intervention services. Students whose scores match those listed in the entrance criteria may also be considered for intervention as room allows, and at the very lease they should be closely monitored by their teacher and receive strategic support in the classroom. With all your intervention students identified your team should begin to form small groups based on instructional need, then assign personnel to deliver intervention services. The most at-risk students should be working with the most highly trained educators in your school.

Report on Progress

In addition to identifying intervention groups, entrance criteria are useful for monitoring student progress. Beyond reporting baseline scores, classroom and intervention teachers can document student scores at predetermined point in the year, such as at the conclusion of each trimester. Meet again as a team to discuss which students should exit intervention services, and which students should continue. Regroup your remaining students and identify new students who meet the entrance criteria for intervention services.

Follow these steps and you’ll be on target to a proper referral process and an intervention program that helps all students to thrive. Don’t forget to download your copy of my entrance criteria for grades K-2!

Get Your Free Copy