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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pull Out vs. Push In Intervention

Today I am posting about an issue that is very near and dear to my heart: pull out vs. push in intervention. Throughout my four years as a reading specialist, I have done both forms of intervention. This post centers around my experiences and opinions of these two structures of intervention with some insight from other professionals.

Pull Out:
First, let me share my opinion on pull out intervention. For my first three years as a reading specialist, I primarily pulled out my students. This was a decision made by administration.


  • For the most part, I had control of the environment. We had plenty of space with few distractions in the room. Many of the students receiving intervention services struggle with attention. The quiet environment separated from the busy classroom helped my students focus. Students were able to attend to concepts they might have missed in the classroom. 
  • I had the resources I needed at hand. I had room to put up anchor charts and a dry erase board. There was space for sets of leveled readers, notebooks, and a variety of other supplies. I never had to worry if I had left a supply behind. I also did not need to buy additional sets of supplies to store in multiple rooms.
  • A change of environment is refreshing. Students enjoyed leaving their classroom and going to a new place. The movement is also beneficial.
  • Travel time. Students must travel from their classroom to the intervention room. (In my case, however, it has never been more than 2-5 minutes.)
  • Some students might feel embarrassed leaving the classroom. (In my experience, we have had all the students go to different locations for reading groups and services at their level. When we did this, we eliminated the stigma because all the students were going somewhere. It might be to intervention or to a higher level group with another grade level teacher.)
  • Less time with the classroom teacher. The intervention teacher must find time outside the intervention block to communicate with the classroom teacher. (However, when I push in, my schedule is so packed that there is not time to communicate with the classroom teacher during that time, anyways.)

Push In
While I have done push in intervention all four years I have been a reading specialist, I used this form of intervention primarily this past school year. Once again, this was a decision made by administration. 

  • Less time lost during transitions. When I switch groups, the students are able to come to me quickly because I am already in the classroom. Time is still lost in my schedule, however, because I have to travel to the different rooms. I don't doubt that I travel faster than the students, though! 
  • The intervention teacher is able to interact more with the teacher in the classroom. He or she is able to witness the teacher's instructional style first hand. 
  • A more united front is presented for behavioral issues. It is very easy to use the same behavioral system. (Ex. Change clip, flip card, etc.)
  • More distractions. This will depend greatly on class size. With classrooms of 30 children, I had to deal with the distractions of other reading groups, centers, and general classroom interruptions. At some points, I was even distracted hearing other teachers lead their groups! I can only imagine how difficult it must be for the students.
  • Time wasted putting materials away and setting them up. Once again, this depends on your situation. I was required to store my materials on a shelf and then set up on a group of student desks.  I had to clear the students' desks, set up a foldable board, and set up any other reading materials. Then, I had to clean all of these up. This time had to be scheduled into my overall schedule. Time that could have been used for instruction.

As I write this, I realize that these are my opinions based upon my experiences. Other teachers will have different experiences based upon the structure of their schools and classrooms. This past school year, I found that of all my groups, the group that I pulled out grew significantly more than any of my other reading groups. 

I find it very interesting that many of the popular names in education advocate for push in, including the well known Richard Allington, but when I looked at popular teaching forums, such as Pro Teacher, the majority of teachers seemed to be in favor of pull out. 

After my research, I think this fact illustrates the problem. There is a disconnect between administration and teachers. While teachers should always do what they believe is best for their students, the structure of the school plays a crucial role in the success or failure of the intervention system. Most of the success stories I have heard for push in intervention centered around a strong school wide approach. 

As a result, I believe that until all school systems are run exactly the same (which will never happen!), the model that works best for one school will not work best for all. Many factors determine whether push in or pull out is best for your students and your school.

What are your thoughts on pull out vs. push in intervention?


  1. Intervention was a huge issue for us until we did some restructuring. We surveyed our staff and found frustration when students missed core instruction for intervention. If they missed math for math intervention, the gap grew. If the missed math for reading intervention, we were putting them at a disadvantage in another subject. There was also concerns that intervention positions were based on funding and often hired last minute. We revamped our structure. I became the intervention teacher so we now had a member of the leadership team teaching intervention. We rearranged our schedule. Our students come to me during specials. They miss fitness, music, or art. My groups change frequently so they don't miss them for more than a few weeks. We also have intervention groups for various levels so there isn't a stigma. The latest survey shows teachers are loving it now. We have some push in for special ed. That is important to help those kids be successful in a regular class environment. Different goals. Different strategies.

    1. Great thoughts! Thank you for sharing! The structure of the school and the support of the staff makes a huge difference. I agree.

  2. I wish we taught in the same building. I would love to work with you, because we see students as all of ours.
    I have this discussion with our learning support teachers each year. I once taught next to someone who I had a great relationship with and we were able to do what the students needed instead of what administration dictated -- some pull out and some push in. That school was closed and we all were split up. I still miss that collaboration.

  3. I teach at a Private Religious School and I serve as a Support Teacher and a 2nd Grade Teacher. I too believe that it matters on the student and situation at hand. Some students flourish in 'pull out" and others soar with an inclusion model. I second many of your thoughts and too my experiences in the past 14 years in education have been similar to yours. What I do always advocate is a TEAM approach-parents, staff, support staff, student (if applicable) physician. Each case needs to be looked at by itself. No, two students are alike. What should be clear is we should be always willing to provide the best education possible giving the tools and environment we have. YOU ARE A WONDERFUL EDUCATOR! Smiles and stop by anytime!

  4. I've done both as well, and based on where I've been, it depends on the PD both teachers have received on push-in and "co-teaching" if you are using that model. I never had great experience with push-in. I prefer pull-out for my ELL newcomers, but students at advanced levels we are moving towards a push-in so that they spend more time in a more rigorous setting.


  5. I love this post! I have been working on a post about push in and pull out interventions and we have some very similar ideas. My situation is a bit different from yours because it has always been up to me and the teachers I work with to decide how we are going to tackle intervention groups. I have found the most effective way is a flexible push in/pull out style. Hopefully I will finish up my blog post sometime this week! I would love to link back to your post if that is okay with you!

    The Math Maniac

    1. Thanks! I cannot wait to read your post! You are more than welcome to link back!

  6. I, too, use and like the pull out model better than push-in. It has worked for me in both ways, but it really depends on the classroom. Our principal wanted me to do push-in in one classroom, so I could model, but that didn't work since the teacher was teaching during that time. We are school-wide Title I, so I can essentially work with any students in any classroom, so push-in can work more effectively.

    I am lucky that our school has an intervention period (30-45 minutes depending on grade level) that I am usually a part of. Then pulling out is not a big deal, since I am there to provide intervention. The only problem is these same kids usually need math too, resulting in lost time from reading interventions.

    Thanks for your thoughts! I nodded my head in agreement through the entire post!
    Reading Toward the Stars

  7. I'm with you, I think there are pros and cons to both systems. Ideally I'd love to have push in every day, IF our classrooms were big enough for us both to work without disrupting each other (that's a big "if!") I think the biggest challenge with our intervention groups is consistency. Our resource teachers don't get subs when they are absent or have to attend a daytime meeting, so they often have to cover for one another, which means that intervention groups may be cancelled or times changed without notice. That drives me crazy as a classroom teacher, even thought I know it's not the resource teacher's fault!

  8. I love your discussion on this topic. I have had both as well, and am lucky to work with a great team of teachers. It can be frustrating when kids get pulled out of math for reading intervention, mainly because in my school we don't have any math intervention for 1st grade and often those same kids struggle in math. They can fall further behind when they are missing math instruction. Fortunately, our reading teachers really do their best with scheduling and we know that when they are pulled out of math, it's because there was no other option, and schedules are created so that days alternate and the same child doesn't miss math every day. It's not always ideal, but if the staff feels like everyone is TRYING to meet the student's needs (first, and then each others' with schedules), there is less animosity. I have found that push-in can work if neither teacher is viewed as the expert hovering over the other teacher.

  9. I have been a Reading Specialist for 16 yrs. I have done both methods. I wholeheartedly feel that pull out is most effective due to the fact that I can control the environment and like you stated the majority of students suffer from attention problems. Our discussions are more in depth and my intervention students share more when they are pulled out. My school has a set 30 min.intervention block and high achieving students go to another teacher so there is no embarrassment for our struggling students. The one drawback is travel time, however, when I push in I probably spend that much time getting situated.

  10. I have been a Reading Specialist for 16 yrs. I have done both methods. I wholeheartedly feel that pull out is most effective due to the fact that I can control the environment and like you stated the majority of students suffer from attention problems. Our discussions are more in depth and my intervention students share more when they are pulled out. My school has a set 30 min.intervention block and high achieving students go to another teacher so there is no embarrassment for our struggling students. The one drawback is travel time, however, when I push in I probably spend that much time getting situated.

  11. Hello, Amy! I'm just finding this post after some googling! I'm a literacy interventionist and my building is shifting toward the push-in model this year. There are 2 of us, and we need to cover 6 grades (K-5). Do you have any scheduling tips for us, or ideas for how to get the most out of our time in the classroom(s)? Feel free to email me (! Thank you!

  12. Hello Amy,
    At our staff meeting on yesterday, our principal announced that we are moving to the push-in model next year. I am looking for information as well. I am a former Reading Recovery teacher and currently serving as a reading specialist. I have only used the pull-out model for 13 years. My students and I enjoy each other. I have seen lots of literacy growth. There is another reading specialist serving at my school as well. Any tips you can offer I will appreciate. You can email me at
    Thank you

  13. I am supposed to be writing my response to the drastic changes in my daughters IEP, specifically the schools administration moving the school to an inclusive system rather than a pull out. I came to the internet to see if maybe I was alone in my want, need, and desire to keep the pull out model. I guess I am not alone. I have read many of these blogs and the recurring underline these I found to be interesting. Did anyone else see it? Notice how all in favor of the push in model mention nothing about the special needs students is all centered around teaching tolerance and acceptance of people from all walks of life. At what point does the special education teacher teach? My daughters IEP team last year was great and your right it had a lot to do with the school administration, he was awesome he had teachers working together and under his model there were no missed lessons. See he had the special ed teacher instruct on the same subject that my daughter was being taken out of. She just taught the lesson differently and few tweeks to the focus area but if another student was talking about the lesson my daughter didn't feel left out like she had missed something she could follow the conversation and felt confident enough to contribute. She score 200 more points on her state tests for the first time in 6 years she almost scored at grade level. It was the greatest year ever. Although still significantly behind in reading her progress last year was epic. Special education should not be about teaching others tolerance, there will be no need none of our kids will be qualified to get the jobs in the first place.


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