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Ask A REL Response

August 2020


What research has been conducted on the impact of academic/literacy interventionists on student and/or school performance?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on the impact of academic/literacy interventionists on student and/or school performance. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed the impact of academic/literacy interventionists on student and/or school performance. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Campbell, P. F., & Malkus, N. N. (2011). The impact of elementary mathematics coaches on student achievement. Elementary School Journal, 111(3), 430-454.
    From the abstract: "Elementary mathematics coaches are placed in schools to construct leadership roles and to provide on-site, collaborative professional development addressing mathematical content, pedagogy, and curriculum in an effort to enhance instruction and improve student achievement. This 3-year randomized control study found that over time coaches positively affected student achievement in grades 3, 4, and 5. In these grades, this significant positive effect on student achievement was not evident at the conclusion of the first year of placement of a coach in a school but emerged as knowledgeable coaches gained experience and as a school's instructional and administrative staffs learned and worked together. The coaches in this study engaged in a high degree of professional coursework addressing mathematics content, pedagogy, and coaching prior to and during at least their first year of placement. Findings should not be generalized to coaches with less expertise. (Contains 1 figure, 6 tables, and 3 notes.)"
  2. Campbell, P. F., & Malkus, N. N. (2013). Elementary mathematics specialists: Influencing student achievement. Teaching Children Mathematics, 20(3), 198-205.
    From the abstract: "'To whom do you turn in this school for advice or information about mathematics instruction?' (Spillane, Healey, and Parise 2009, p. 413). When teachers in forty-four schools were asked this question, they were more likely to indicate a teacher leader in their school, rather than the school's principal or any other administrator. Who are these teacher leaders for mathematics, and what do they do? In many schools, such leaders are knowledgeable, on-site teachers who support their colleagues' efforts to interact about all facets of mathematics teaching--curriculum, lesson planning, student work, assessments, and school improvement. Because these teachers are facilitating onsite, job embedded, professional learning, many school districts are formalizing this practice and creating either elementary mathematics specialist or coaching positions with the hopes of developing these leaders. The two positions are somewhat different. Elementary school mathematics coaches focus on working with individual teachers to foster instructional change; specialists are also expected to advance a school's mathematics program. Are mathematics specialists or coaches merely the latest "grand promise" in education, or do they really offer a path toward improved instruction in schools? For many readers, the answer to that question depends on whether these teacher leaders influence student achievement. A recent three-year study of elementary mathematics specialists examined that issue (Campbell and Malkus 2011). A primary focus of this study was to determine the impact of mathematics specialists on student achievement (in grades 3, 4, and 5) as measured by the standardized assessments that were administered by one state to meet No Child Left Behind federal regulations."
  3. Harbour, K. E., Adelson, J. L., Pittard, C. M., & Karp, K. S. (2018). Examining the relationships among mathematics coaches and specialists, student achievement, and disability status: A multilevel analysis using national assessment of educational progress data. Elementary School Journal, 118(4), 654-679.
    From the abstract: "Using restricted-use data from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress mathematics assessment, the current study examined the relationship between the presence of elementary mathematics coaches and specialists (MCSs) and the mathematics achievement of more than 190,000 fourth-grade students in more than 7,400 schools nationwide. In addition, the study explored how that relationship differed for students with and without identified disabilities, a vital concern with the continued focus of equity in mathematics education. Hierarchical linear modeling, with adjustments for composite covariates and controls as well as sampling weights, was used to examine each research question. Results showed promise for the use of full-time elementary MCSs to support students' overall and specific content-area mathematics achievement. This positive relationship did not hold true for the use of part-time MCSs, nor was a differential effect found based on students' disability status."
  4. Nelson, P. M., Van Norman, E. R., Parker, D. C., & Cormier, D. C. (2019). An examination of interventionist implementation fidelity and content knowledge as predictors of math intervention effectiveness. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 35(3), 234-256.
    From the abstract: "Data from a large-scale math intervention program were used to evaluate the degree to which implementation fidelity (IF) and interventionist content knowledge were associated with student outcomes. Data were available for 33 interventionists serving 658 students in Grades 4-6 across one school year. A series of multilevel models were fit to the data to evaluate the impact of procedural IF and interventionists' math content knowledge on students' postintervention achievement, controlling for preintervention achievement and intervention dosage. Higher student posttest scores were observed for interventionists with an average fidelity rating of 95% or greater (ß = 0.15); however, no effects on students' math achievement scores were observed for interventionist content knowledge. Adding IF and a measure of interventionist content knowledge to the model explained a statistically significant amount of variance in growth estimates attributable to interventionists (15%). Results highlight the potential importance of ongoing evaluation and remediation of IF in the context of standardized supplemental intervention in math, while also providing some evidence that higher levels of content knowledge may not translate into greater impact in a standard-protocol intervention setting. Results suggest a need for more research examining characteristics of interventionists and aspects of implementation that may account for variance in student outcomes."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Reading interventionist and student achievement
  • Academic interventionist, student achievement

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.