Throughout the 2022-23 school year, as our school partners created intervention plans, they have been using the Branching Minds intervention library to find and document student supports. We’ve surveyed the data about the most used interventions in our library, how they are used, and what that can tell us about current trends in MTSS interventions.
Although the interventions listed here are popular, please keep in mind that the impact of an intervention depends significantly on the implementation. The supports mentioned here are among the most used supports, but may not be the most recommended supports.
Take a look at what’s happening with interventions across the country and get some insight into current trends!
Trend #1: Programs are Topping the Charts
By far, the most popular type of support is using a program. Programs are considered to be robust curricula that are typically purchased by a school or district. They include targeted interventions, diagnostic tools, teacher manuals, and embedded assessment tools.
Some examples of programs that were highly used in 2022 were iReady, IXL, Freckle Education, and Edmentum: Exact Path. There are a lot of benefits to using these types of intervention programs:
Teachers don’t need to create the materials themselves or design lessons
The research behind a program has already been thoroughly evaluated
They are designed to be easy for teachers to implement
TIP: Add in some strategies
As you consider which interventions to use with your students, we would encourage you to remember the benefits of other types of interventions, such as strategies, activities, and tools. Strategies are instructional methods that an educator would use during a lesson to support their students. Some examples are pre-teaching new concepts, providing graphic organizers, or using worksheets with mixed difficulty levels.
If you are a Branching Minds user, you can filter the Intervention Library by the “support type” if you’d like to take a look at some of these other options.
Some of the benefits of using strategies and tools alongside programs are:
Holistic support - programs can provide structured curriculum and intervention materials while teaching strategies ensure that the material is being presented most effectively.
Meeting multiple needs simultaneously - Tier 1 programs work for most of the class while implementing Tier 2 strategies will provide further support to those who need it.
Productive use of time - layering in other supports or strategies can help to reinforce the lesson objective, ideally clearing up any misunderstandings before much time has passed.
Trend #2: Vague Intervention Plans
One trend that stood out to our team was the number of plans that lacked enough detail to ensure good implementation. We observed this across both academic and behavior plans.
MTSS documentation is more than just paperwork; it's a tool for informed decision-making. By keeping detailed records of the programs, strategies, or tools used within an intervention plan, educators can track progress, identify patterns, and make data-driven adjustments to better support their students.
It helps them answer critical questions like,
“Is this intervention happening?”
"Is this intervention happening as it should?”
“Is it working?"
"Do we need to try something different?"
When plans like “Small Group Support” or “Behavior Intervention Plan” are created without any additional information, it makes it increasingly difficult for educators to answer these key questions.
Furthermore, documenting interventions fosters collaboration and communication among educators, support staff, and parents. When everyone is on the same page regarding the strategies being employed, it becomes easier to work as a team to ensure each student's success. Parents also benefit from this transparency, as it enables them to understand the specific ways in which their child is being supported.
TIP: Include the details when planning supports
Be as specific as possible when including interventions in a student plan, including who, what, where, when, and how. If you need suggestions for how to start with this, look into evidence-based curricula or strategies. Some examples of high-quality and specific SEL/behavior interventions are Check-In Check-Out, Character Strong, and Harmony SEL. Some academic examples are READ 180, SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol), and My Math Academy.
Trend #3: Leveled Reading Programs
Year after year, we see leveled reading programs (also known as balanced literacy programs) topping the charts as our most used interventions. In fact, in a 2020 EdWeek Research Center survey, 61% of K-2 teachers reported that they used leveled texts in small group work. One example of this type of program that we see used a lot is the Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention.
These types of leveled reading programs are based on grouping students into leveled reading groups based on their reading ability and then having teachers work with each group to help them progress. The goal is to meet students at their instructional level and provide them with just enough challenge to progress their abilities without discouraging them.
However, there are some noted issues with the leveled reading system:
Research has shown that the measurement system used to place students into their reading level is very flawed, and it is only correct about 54% of the time.
The measurement system does not take into account that students who are supposedly at the same level actually can have very different strengths and weaknesses. Because of this oversight, the system tends to overestimate readers who are struggling, matching them with books that they will have a hard time reading. This can make it difficult for students to progress because they are not receiving support that matches their needs.
Studies have shown that students who start school in the lowest reading group are not likely to catch up to students who start in the highest group. Additionally, students in lower reading groups tend to make slower progress than those in the higher groups, leading to even wider skill gaps.
TIP: Instead of leveled reading groups, try this:
This type of targeted grouping can be highly effective. One study found that 1st-3rd grade students in skill-based reading groups outperformed their peers who were in traditional leveled reading groups and gained about two months of extra progress each year. To form skill-based groups, teachers can use diagnostic assessments that identify specific skill deficits.
It also involves using research-informed strategies and remaining open to new research and evidence as reading practices evolve. The Science of Reading is not a specific program or product, but rather a collection of research that influences a variety of programs. When looking into programs or strategies, most companies will be upfront about whether their product aligns with the science of reading. Some programs based on the Science of Reading include Amplify CKLA, mClass Intervention, Reading Recovery, and Raz-Plus. If you are a Branching Minds user, you can search “the science of reading” in the support library, and a list of programs will pull up.
How “trendy” are you with your intervention plans? There are many excellent research-based interventions to choose from. During the planning phase, remember that the impact of an intervention greatly depends on the implementation. If an intervention is not helping your students to progress, don’t be afraid to try something else! Consider using a new teaching strategy, selecting a more specific intervention, or choosing a new program based on the Science of Reading.
💡 Want to learn more about finding and using evidence-based MTSS interventions? Take a look at ourIntervention Guide!
Intervention programs are excellent resources, but educators should also keep in mind the potential impact of adding in teaching strategies.
Intervention plans are more effective when they are as specific as possible.
Leveled reading programs are popular, but research tells us that programs based on the science of reading are more effective.
🚀 Find “Just Right” Interventions with the Branching Minds Intervention Library
The Branching Minds Intervention Library isn't just a list of interventions; it's a dynamic tool that helps you to identify and deliver personalized, evidence-based support. For more information about the Branching Minds library along with 15 of our most-used interventions, check out this guideFinding and Using Evidence-Based MTSS Interventions: A How-To Guide,or request a demo below.
Rachel Butler is the Content Specialist for Branching Minds. Rachel is a former Chicago Public Schools middle school special education teacher and case manager. She has experience with school leadership, intervention implementation, and working with a team of stakeholders to ensure each student receives the support they need. Rachel is passionate about social-emotional learning, school-based behavioral health, and providing all schools and students with access to high-quality resources.