Leading the intervention and referral services process in elementary schools: Case studies in New Jersey

Richard Michael Gronda, Fordham University


Little research has been done on Intervention and Referral Service Committees (I&RS), the pre-referral process for at-risk student who might otherwise be placed in special education. This study uses a qualitative research approach to examine how school leaders shape the I&RS school-based collaborative problem-solving process designed to assist elementary teachers with the academically struggling elementary students in their classrooms. The results of the study offer further insights into utilizing and leading a school-based pre-referral problem solving team. Participants include six leaders of I&RS programs across four elementary schools—4 are school principals and 2 are individuals designated by their respective principal to chair the I&RS committee's work. The school sites were selected based on the leadership model of their I&RS committee. Their responses to the interview questions were transcribed and analyzed to determine the concept of I&RS, the role of the leader in the I&RS process, the strengths and weaknesses of I&RS, and its effects on teaching, learning, and overall school culture. The findings suggested that the I&RS program potentially leads to more focused classroom instruction through its collaborative attributes, problem identification techniques, focused instructional methods, and progress monitoring elements. The findings confirmed that a well-established I&RS program improves academic outcomes for children experiencing difficulty in school. Success depends on strong leadership from the school principal as the committee leader, the presence of collaborative relationships among school personnel during the problem-solving process, the systematic use and collection of data, and the analysis of outcomes to recommend improvements for the overall instructional program in schools. The I&RS committee enhances the instruction of at-risk students and reduces special education referrals. Recommendations include employing a school-wide program to identify at-risk students earlier and more carefully; providing more professional development in intervention practices; diversifying I&RS membership; standardizing I&RS protocols for efficient information management; engaging in additional research; and further exploring the uses of problem-solving teams—their composition, and their impact on at-risk students in schools.

Subject Area

Educational administration|Special education

Recommended Citation

Gronda, Richard Michael, "Leading the intervention and referral services process in elementary schools: Case studies in New Jersey" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3493956.