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The Difference Between Push-In and Pull-Out Reading Interventions

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Updated on
Modified on September 28, 2023

Literacy statistics today present educators with a challenge when it comes to teaching reading. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), in 2022, the average fourth-grade math score decreased by 5 points to its lowest level since 2005. The average eighth-grade math score decreased by 8 points to its lowest level since 2003.  Many children are struggling with reading at a very young age, and there are many reasons why some students are unable to read. Unfortunately, reading difficulties are common and can range from poor reading skills, to learning disabilities, to language barriers, and more. For every reading challenge students face, there is a reading intervention strategy teachers can utilize in their classroom. When teachers are working with students with IEPs, special needs students, or ESL students, they may wish to examine the pros and cons of methods such as push-in and pull-out reading interventions.

Reading Interventions

In general, reading interventions are a more targeted or direct reading instruction to students who may have fallen below their ideal reading level. Reading interventions usually focus on reading categories such as word study, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Once reading assessments have been administered and student data has been analyzed, teachers can evaluate what interventions to offer based on the needs of particular students.

Reading interventions can range in the number of services offered based on what a student needs. Because of this, reading interventions usually follow a type of tier system. For example, students in the first tier who are close to grade-level reading may only need a small amount of additional support. Students in the second tier who have fallen behind grade level may need more small-group interventions. Finally, third-tier students who have fallen significantly behind may need more intensive and individualized reading interventions.

The reasons for using reading interventions in the classroom go beyond the opportunity for growth in just reading. Reading interventions can also provide students with an opportunity to increase writing, test taking, and study skills at their instructional level. This opportunity for growth in a multitude of areas is why educators must approach planning and organizing interventions with intentionality and care. In her article “Reading Intervention Strategies for Struggling Readers,” Dr. Amy Endo walks readers through evidence-based reading intervention strategies as well as ways to implement those strategies. Dr. Endo writes, “Implementing effective reading intervention strategies into our classrooms allows for students to experience moments of success and even joy through their reading, no matter how short or long the text may be. The cumulative process of experiencing these small wins will help make our students ‘page turners’ not only in the books that they read but also equips them to start new chapters in their personal achievements.”

How Push-In and Pull-Out Reading Interventions Work

Some may assume reading interventions are not widely needed; however, literacy statistics are revealing the need to put just as much focus on interventions as instructional time. It is important to know how interventions work. Most reading intervention models, including push-in and pull-out services, involve research-based curriculum, progress monitoring, and appropriate Response to Intervention needs.

Education programs across the country are giving added attention to reading interventions through professional development training for teachers that showcase the positives and negatives of different types of interventions. For example, Dr. Jemi Sudhakar, a University of Cambridge graduate and principal of Orchids International School, has noted the positive impact of remedial classes, especially with remedial reading programs. One place to start with remedial reading programs or reading interventions is deciding whether a student needs push-in services or pull-out interventions. 

Much research has been done to compare the effectiveness of the two options, but teachers must also consider their specific group of students as well as the research. Teachers will notice the research often references factors such as setting, socioeconomic status, and gender as factors for whether push-in or pull-out services would be a better fit.

Push-In Intervention

Push-in intervention involves supporting a student who is struggling inside the classroom. All of the additional support and differentiated instruction happens in the classroom instead of somewhere else. Sometimes the classroom teacher can provide these services, and other times an additional person comes to assist, such as a special education teacher or reading specialist. In some situations, there is a need for a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech therapist to come into the classroom. LLA Therapy met with therapists involved in push-in therapy and asked them questions about success stories, barriers, and overall ways to make push-in intervention work for each situation. When it comes to reading interventions in particular, speech therapists are often helpful in the classroom. 

The main benefit to this method is that it most closely follows the general education routine by keeping students in their normal environment, surrounded by their peers, and with their familiar teacher. The main setback to this method is that less individually focused instruction can happen because both teachers and students can get distracted by other students in the room.

Pull-Out Intervention

Pull-out intervention is when students are pulled out of the general education classroom and taken to a separate setting for small-group or one-on-one instruction. This is sometimes necessary due to the severity of the reading challenge or certain learning environments. With this method, individual students’ needs are able to take center stage more since it is a smaller group of people in the room. Here, specialists are more prominent than the general education teacher, and curriculum is more tailored to specific needs.

While there are a few more logistics to worry about with this method in terms of having multiple educators across different spaces, the opportunity for a positive outcome is present. Several studies have noted that with pull-out interventions, “students appeared more confident while working on instructional-level skills away from classmates performing on a higher level, which can also help increase achievement.” While there is still the potential for students to feel uncomfortable socially by being removed from the classroom, most of the time, students are exhibiting positive academic reactions to pull-out intervention. 

Other Reading Interventions for Struggling Readers

Push-in and pull-out interventions are not the only reading interventions for struggling readers. There are other reading interventions that provide additional strategies and activities to boost reading skills in other areas. These interventions are research-based and can be done in the regular classroom by a general education teacher or can be done in a separate setting by an intervention teacher or reading specialist. Either way, making sure the special needs of each student are being met is the primary focus to ensuring a favorable Response to Intervention.


The supports put in place to help a student succeed.


This entails encouraging reading effort, often with compliments and incentives.

Small Groups

A teacher may focus on the abilities that need to be developed in a group of students who are having similar problems by using small-group instruction or teaching.

Prior Knowledge

Using existing knowledge to contextualize text helps provide context and create meaning for newly presented content.


Reading material aloud repeatedly may help with comprehension, fluency, and speed.

Reading Workshops

Reading workshops can provide focused mini lessons, peer discussion and collaboration, and quality independent reading time.

Using Technology

Since much of the world operates online now, incorporating technology into reading interventions can provide students with real-world experience of reading skills. 

Student Choice

Giving students the opportunity to select their own books or worksheets can give them the authority or autonomy to foster a feeling of confidence in a setting when they may feel weak or challenged.

Interventions in Reading Across Grade Levels

Students from different grade levels or year levels have different reading comprehension, which means the interventions may look different as well. This is because as students grow and develop, their ability to comprehend further knowledge grows as well. Then, as students gain additional knowledge and skills, those things begin to expand upon each other as students now have more prior knowledge to activate for new lessons. 

Because of all this, the effectiveness or impact of the reading interventions may also vary from school year to school year. 

Some studies have shown that the impact of reading interventions is higher in younger grade levels in elementary school. For example, a 2015 case study conducted by Gardner-Webb University found, “The percentage of first-grade students reaching grade-level proficiency was much higher than that of second-grade students.” But just because there is a push to start reading interventions as early as possible, that does not mean middle schools and high schools do not need interventions. For example, in her research “The Effectiveness of Reading Interventions for Middle School Students with Learning Disabilities,” Jennifer Hicks said,“Older students with reading deficits benefit from reading instruction that fosters background knowledge, vocabulary development, ability to detect and comprehend relationships among concepts, and the ability to use strategies to ensure understanding and retention of reading material.” Her studies supported that of previous researchers, who found, “30% of middle school students with reading-related LD require specific, intensive, and explicit reading instruction either individually or in small groups to meet grade-level reading standards.” As students get older, it can be harder to address foundational skills while still working on grade-level work as well. 

School districts should take note of this research and have intervention plans for each grade level, whether that involves classroom instruction aimed at targeted reading skills, team teaching in the general classroom setting, small-group instruction through push-in or pull-out services, or even specialized intervention teachers or reading teachers. With the right reading intervention plans in place, every group of students can find success and enjoyment in language arts lessons.


Every teacher is a reading teacher, and therefore knowing some of the best strategies for instruction and intervention are crucial for student success. Different intervention models have various strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes it is up to the teacher to decide which one is the best for their education program and their students. For some, push-in interventions will be able to help students academically while still keeping them in the social setting of the general education classroom. For others, pull-out interventions will be necessary to provide learners with the quality time and attention they need to make progress on their reading skills. Voyager Sopris Learning® solutions can help with teaching reading skills through the use of reading interventions and strategies. With programs ranging from elementary to high school, we are confident we have a reading intervention that can equip you with the necessary tools to help your students make strides in reading and literacy.