Amy C. Scarborough's (2012) dissertation, Using Empirically Validated Reading Strategies to Improve Middle School Students' Reading Fluency of Classroom Textbooks, is a two-part writing that examines current research on reading fluency and follows it up with the presentation of her research with four students.
Her research centered on case studies. She was able to document that repeated reading, listening passage preview, corrective feedback, self-graphing and contingent reinforcement were all effective for improving fluency. Using this information she designed an intervention for four middle school students reading 1 to 2 years below grade level. Interventions were one-on-one models that included these components. Her model was effective in improving reading fluency of her subjects.
First, if one considers that approximately one third of eighth graders are non-proficient readers (based on their standardized assessment scores), this represents a sampling of students commonly found in a middle school classroom. It does not represent the readers who are significantly below grade level, often served by special education classes or English language learners. As such caution with applying this research to these populations is important. It does, however, represent an intervention model that might work with the "average" below-level reader.
Second, as much as we might understand that one-on-one instruction is the most student responsive and effective, it is not logistically viable for many schools, even if the intervention can be implemented by teaching assistants, paraprofessionals or volunteers. Also, pull out programs are receiving increasing pressure both from people who want students in the classrooms with their peers all the time (full inclusion) and from people who schedule students without any down time in which to provide remedial instruction.
Ms. Scarborough should be praised for working to implement an intervention using classroom materials. She did, however, use materials that were not congruent with current instruction of her students, but rather with material they would cover later in the school year. It might have been more relevant to the students if the remediation utilized content that students were currently being asked to learn. Reinforcing content area work while implementing reading interventions would be killing two birds with one stone. For students reading significantly below grade level, alternative low reading level texts might be found to supplement and support general classroom instruction. This would be in line with the research that supports providing interventions on material at the individual's instructional reading level.