Sunday, August 30, 2009

The difference between interventions and accommodations

As RtI has become a requirement for students to qualify for special education services in the Specific Learning Disability (SLD) category, many teachers are not sure what the difference is between accommodations and interventions.

Interventions can be compared more closely to remediation. The focus is choosing specific skills a student needs to improve, matching research based teaching strategies to the specific learning style or weakness, monitoring progress, and documenting results. This also involves having measurable goals in mind, which includes what learning is to occur and how it is going to be measured.

These interventions would have to be documented for any academic area where students might qualify for SLD, such as reading, math, or written expression. Reading intervention programs (such as DIBELS) are commercially available and often are already being used in compliance with No Child Left Behind. The belief of NCLB being that all children can learn, and that more efforts should be made to match other research based strategies to individual children's needs when progress is not being made. It is widely recognized that major components of reading are phonemic awareness (hearing and recognizing sounds--not associated with letters), phonics or alphabet principle (learning and using letter sound relationships), fluency (ability to identify words quickly enough to keep the flow of the meaning of a sentence), vocabulary (understanding and applying word meanings), and comprehension (understanding meaning of written material). You can see that earlier components are pre-requisites to the final and ultimate goal of comprehension.

Not as much is available and being used in math and written expression, but state Standards may give guidelines that are helpful. IN standards are well respected and include some assessments and strategies for some skills. See
Select subject, then grade or class, and specific standard. Standards are the same for each elementary grade with benchmarks specific within each grade level. Some assessments and teaching ideas are available as resources. You can see after the subject selection what Indiana lists as major components of subject areas. Math lists number sense, computation, algebra and functions, geometry, data analysis and probability, and problem solving. There are a different set of standards for high school math classes. You can read explanations of each on the site.

Language Arts standards in writing list process (drafts getting to clear coherent writing), applications (different types of writing for different audiences), and conventions (includes all writing mechanics). Another good source to analyze components of written expression more completely is the Six Traits.
(This site credits creators of the program) You will see on this site the explanations of these six components: content/ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.

As you have a better understanding of interventions now, keep in mind the difference between that and accommodations. While some accommodations may provide help in remediation (as one of many strategies), their primary purpose is to make the general education curriculum more accessible without changing what standards skills are being measured.

A note of interest: When skills being measured are reduced to lower grade levels, then they become modifications (defined as changed) rather than accommodations (which improve access). This is not meant to confuse you further.

You can see that for there to be continuity between grades and teachers, curriculum needs to be aligned with standards. Otherwise, lots of teachers who may be doing good things, may also be teaching different things without connection between grade levels, classrooms, and buildings. We also need to be aware of how past teachings may have affected students skill levels at any time as we decide how to design appropriate interventions.

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