Remedial instruction can help struggling learners shore up their basic skills. This extra support can help them catch up to their peers. And sometimes, if a student’s gaps in learning aren’t related to a disability, it can eliminate the need for referral to special education.
Learn how remedial programs work and how to spot an effective program.
What Are Remedial Programs?
Remedial programs are not the same thing as special education. Special education is designed to meet the ongoing needs of students with disabilities to help them make progress in school.
Remedial programs are designed to close the gap between what a student knows and what he’s expected to know. They often target reading or math skills. In many cases, students are removed from their regular classroom and taught in another setting.
Many students require the extra help remedial programs can provide. For example, there’s a lot of concern about the reading proficiency gap. A high percentage of fourth graders aren’t proficient readers (reading at grade level), according to the National Assessment of Education Progress.
A number of states have policies that require schools to make sure third graders reach certain reading benchmarks or be held back. (These are often referred to as third-grade retention laws.) While some states are changing how reading is taught, others use remedial programs to close the gap.
Some school districts and states use response to intervention (RTI) or multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) frameworks to help students who are struggling. The RTI process emphasizes keeping track of how students respond to instructional interventions. Students who have gaps in their learning because of frequent absences or attention issues can often benefit from this type of remediation.
But some students may not make progress in remedial programs. This could be a sign of a learning disability. And students who a have learning disability are more likely to require more specialized instruction.
What to Look For in a Remedial Program
When evaluating remedial programs for your child, be aware that not all programs are effective. Solid remedial programs:
- Are research-based, using proven teaching methods
- Teach step-by-step without skipping over content
- Are conducted at the student’s pace
- Offer regular reviews and practice exercises to reinforce learning and practice applying new knowledge
- Include a way to assess what the student has learned and whether he’s ready to move ahead
- Teach your child the material in a different way from the way he was taught the first time around
- Offer small group instruction to provide for more individual attention
An effective remedial program is taught by a professional teacher with special training. This is important for all kids, including those with learning and attention issues. Be sure to ask the school if your child’s remedial program teacher has this training.
Exploring Other Strategies and Services
If your child has a learning disability and an Individualized Education Program (IEP), you might ask about the possibility of extended school year (ESY) services for your child. ESY services are specifically for special education, but many schools also have remedial instruction during the summer.
If your child doesn’t have an IEP, ask the teacher about summer remedial programs. You can also ask the teacher about educational strategies that can minimize or eliminate the need for remedial programs in your child’s future.
Another option is to consider having your child evaluated to find out if he has learning and attention issues. In the meantime, a remedial program may be just what he needs to start building his skills and knowledge.