Plan to Support Struggling Students

December 18, 2018

The population of students nationwide who are performing below grade level is staggering. Nationally, 65 percent of eighth graders score below proficient in reading and 67 percent score below proficient in math. Students who are not working at grade level in eighth grade ELA or math have a 25 percent chance of catching up by twelfth grade.

Despite the best efforts of teachers and administrators, it is challenging to address the wide range of needs required to support each struggling student. Successfully supporting these students will have an enormous impact on absenteeism, grade-level proficiency, graduation rate, and college and career readiness.

Many districts employ strategies to unlock success for struggling students through intervention programs supported by a digital curriculum. These programs allow teachers to differentiate support for struggling readers, English language learners, and students with learning gaps, helping them make progress toward meeting grade level expectations.

A well-devised strategy is critical to launching and sustaining a successful intervention program. Plans should include:

  1. A clear vision with measurable short and long-term academic goals.
  2. A timeline of implementation benchmarks.
  3. Buy-in from faculty and support community stakeholders.
  4. Plans for master schedule changes, staffing needs, technology requirements, funding, and ongoing professional learning.


Implementation Strategy

Successful districts follow a continuous improvement cycle to monitor and evaluate progress toward goals, contributing to ongoing program success and improved student outcomes.

4 Stages of Implementation

1 - Plan: Define measurable goals and design instruction.

First, outline a vision and programmatic goals. Involve administrators and teachers in the design process and allow teachers to preview assessment and instructional resources to validate standards alignment, rigor, and quality. 

Second, identify specific outcomes that will be measured over time to evaluate program success. For example, increase the number of seventh grade students who score proficient or above on the seventh grade math assessment by 10 percent.

Prior to implementation, pay special attention to the instructional design to ensure teachers can achieve defined goals within specific student populations. For example:

Support below proficient readers with:

  • Text to speech to increase comprehension.
  • Decodable text to increase fluency.
  • Scaffolded reading and vocabulary support to make complex text accessible.
  • Active reading strategies to increase comprehension of text.


Support English language learners with:

  • Text to speech in English and in native languages.
  • Vocabulary supports.
  • Scaffolding with concrete examples and graphics.
  • Opportunities to read text independently.


Support students with learning gaps with:

  • Assessment to identify prerequisite learning gaps.
  • Targeted remediation to fill in learning gaps and to support grade-level readiness.
  • Formative feedback in both prerequisite and grade-level instruction.


2 - Prepare: Communicate the vision and prepare resources.

Prior to launch, clearly communicate why you are implementing the program with all stakeholders so everyone understands the academic challenges that will be addressed and the positive impact the program will make on student outcomes. There is a lot to consider at this stage, from finalizing the master schedule to providing staff development, to fulfilling technology needs. Communicate program guidelines, staff roles and responsibilities, participation requirements, and the metrics you plan to track to measure program impact.


3 - Develop: Instructional and administrative capacity.

After initial launch, monitor and respond to progress and performance. Provide staff with opportunities to meet to work through challenges and to share best practices. Many teachers also benefit from peer observation and in-classroom coaching and mentoring opportunities. Administrators should observe classrooms and speak to students and teachers to understand what’s working, what’s not and what to adjust along the way to ensure success.


4 - Evaluate: Assess results and optimize.

The goals and outcomes metrics established prior to launch are essential to evaluating program success. Consider ways to optimize your program after reviewing performance metrics and talking to teachers and students to gather input about obstacles they’ve faced and how they were resolved.


Implementation Success Management

Apex Learning is committed to helping districts launch and maintain successful digital curriculum programs. Services are designed and coordinated by a dedicated Implementation Success Manager in alignment with your implementation strategy. These educators and experts in leveraging digital curriculum and are committed to helping you launch your implementation and to develop capacity to ensure the ongoing success of your programs.


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