Cover: Identifying Supports for Struggling Students

Identifying Supports for Struggling Students

Findings from the 2021 Learn Together Surveys

Published Nov 2, 2021

by Sy Doan, Lucas Greer, Elizabeth D. Steiner

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Research Questions

  1. What types of information do teachers consider when supporting struggling students?
  2. Who or what do teachers reference to find interventions?
  3. Are teachers more confident in their ability to find information to support certain student needs more than others?

Teachers commonly rely on many sources of information to diagnose student needs and to identify the most-appropriate resources to support those needs. In this Data Note, the authors use nationally representative survey response data from the 2021 Learn Together Surveys (LTS) to examine how secondary teachers leverage different types of information to guide them to the supports and interventions that they use in the classroom.

Drawing on responses from 3,605 6th- to 12th-grade teachers, the authors focus their discussion on survey items from the "Supporting Struggling Students" and "Sources of Information and Support" portions of the survey. They compare teacher responses across various school-level characteristics, including school free and reduced-price lunch enrollment, percentage of non-white students, and school locale, and various self-reported teacher-level characteristics, such as main subject taught, grade band taught, race/ethnicity, and their school's mode of instruction during the 2020–2021 school year. The authors conclude with implications and policy recommendations based on their analysis.

Key Findings

  • Teachers rely most often on information that they gather from personal interactions with students and from students' performance on teacher-created classroom tasks to support students' academic needs.
  • More than 50 percent of teachers first look to school and district colleagues for information about interventions and supports for students.
  • Teachers are least likely to report knowing where to find information to support students experiencing poverty, English language learners, and anti-racist instruction.


  • Develop guidance on using multiple sources of information to guide student supports.
  • Leverage professional learning opportunities to better inform peer-provided intervention recommendations.
  • Provide more descriptive information about student supports beyond standards alignment and academic effectiveness.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

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