Implementation Examples from the Field

Through an exploratory study focused on five high-performing districts, which we refer to as the National Center on Intensive Intervention's (NCII) knowledge development sites, NCII uncovered the following findings and lessons learned about implementing intensive intervention. Learning about how these five districts have addressed common challenges and mobilized limited resources to support students with intensive needs has helped NCII improve its own training and technical assistance work. It is our hope that the experiences shared by these districts can offer important insight and lessons learned for many other districts and schools around the country that either are starting, implementing, or fine-tuning programs for delivering intensive intervention. Below is a snapshot of the key findings and lessons learned. Read the full report, Implementing Intensive Intervention: Lessons Learned from the Field, to learn more about the study methodology, five districts, study findings, and implications for the field.

Key Findings

The findings from this study reflect the most common themes that emerged from the data across all five districts, related to factors that facilitated or created challenges in the implementation of intensive intervention and may offer lessons that other districts can learn from when planning for, implementing, and working to sustain their own initiatives to provide intensive intervention for students with the most severe and persistent learning and/or behavioral needs.

  1. In all sites, intensive intervention was defined as a component of a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS). These systems provided an infrastructure to support services for students with the most intensive needs, including those with disabilities, within the general education system.
  2. The use of data to drive instructional decision making was pervasive in all sites, especially with respect to academic progress monitoring. In contrast, the use of diagnostic assessment data and behavioral progress-monitoring data was less defined and consistent.
  3. All sites placed a heavy emphasis on capacity-building practices related to intensive intervention, including creating and maintaining broad stakeholder buy-in, building staff expertise, being flexible with scheduling, and making connections between intensive intervention and other related initiatives.
  4. Meaningful engagement and involvement of families in decisions about program planning was important for supporting implementation of intensive intervention.
  5. Identification and service delivery for special education occurred separately from and after a student received intensive intervention within the tiered intervention system (please reference the full report to learn more about the relationship between intensive intervention and special education service delivery).
  6. Staff defined intensive intervention as a process involving adaptation of a secondary intervention (Tier 2), consistent with components of NCII’s data-based individualization (DBI) framework. However, staff spoke more frequently and concretely about making quantitative rather than qualitative adaptations to interventions.
  7. Although all sites described using secondary intervention programs (Tier 2) as a foundation for intensifying intervention, fidelity of implementation of these programs was inconsistent.

Lessons Learned

Based on the findings that emerged from this study and common themes observed in the field, NCII developed five lessons for consideration in implementing intensive intervention:

  1. Intensive intervention is most likely to be facilitated when implemented as a component of a multi-tiered system of support.
  2. Family engagement can be challenging, but is important to pursue to achieve successful outcomes for students with intensive needs.
  3. Implementing intensive intervention in behavior brings a unique set of challenges, due largely to a lack of readily available tools.
  4. Lack of clarity around the distinction between Tiers 2 and 3 in a multi-tiered intervention system can make it challenging to appropriately design and plan for intensive intervention.
  5. Schools and districts should identify and seek to avoid hidden inefficiencies in the ways in which they use staff, particularly skilled special education staff, within the tiered intervention system.