Education in rural areas coupled with poverty is shown to be a risk factor for reading failure (Bhattacharya, 2010; Morrison et al., 2005). Students who have severe reading failure are serviced in the realm of special education. To enhance a student's ability to read, special education teachers can use literacy interventions. Targeted reading intervention (TRI) is a literacy intervention that was developed to meet the requirements of rural elementary classroom teachers, who are often unready to provide diagnostic reading instruction for reading difficulty (Vernon-Feagans et al., 2012). Stevenson and Reed (2017) identified eight empirically supported methods for intensifying instruction when students are not responding to core instruction. The study sought to understand how, if at all, rural special educators altered reading instruction practices after receiving literacy intervention professional development. A case study using a qualitative design was used to observe the perceptions of three special education teachers in an impoverished, rural school district. The special education teachers received instruction on the eight components of intensifying instruction and the TRI. These specific literacy interventions were then implemented by the teachers with their students. Before and after interviews were recorded and used for data analysis. Our findings show that prior to the training the participants felt the power to teach reading resided in a formalized, commercial reading program. Following the training and implementation of these specific literacy interventions, the participants were more often able to diagnose reading difficulties and prescribe effective interventions based on the individual needs rather than relying on a scripted program. By increasing instructional match, the teachers were able to intensify instruction and could make changes to the student intervention as needed. Findings from the data analysis in this thesis study indicated that when teachers were provided ongoing professional development, there was evidence of movement towards intensification. School district-level administrators should consider creating ongoing professional development that targets intensifying instruction, particularly for special education faculty.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





reading instruction, teacher effectiveness, instructional improvement, diagnostic teaching, rural schools



Included in

Counseling Commons