Not just for struggling students anymore

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Principal Jon Hoskins, 2nd-grade teacher Andrea Brandenburg, curriculum coach Melissa Miles and counselor Ashley Farmer discuss student progression during a school-level Response to Intervention meeting at Westside Elementary School (Harrison County). Photo by Amy Wallot, Sept. 14, 2012
Principal Jon Hoskins, 2nd-grade teacher Andrea Brandenburg, curriculum coach Melissa Miles and counselor Ashley Farmer discuss student progression during a school-level Response to Intervention meeting at Westside Elementary School (Harrison County). Photo by Amy Wallot, Sept. 14, 2012

By Susan Riddell

Kentucky public schools have long been intervening with students labeled as “at-risk” and those who have not met proficiency benchmarks.

Response to Intervention (RtI) is a common practice in schools because of this. Under the Kentucky Systems for Interventions (KSI) umbrella, RtI is a practice of providing high-quality instruction to students that matches their needs, said JennyLynn Hatter, supervisor of instruction for the Harrison County school district.

But as Kentucky education is ever changing, so must RtI change, said April Pieper, academic program manager for the Differentiated Learning Branch at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE).

Pieper has been working on the RtI national model to see how it should be implemented in Kentucky. She said the model is directed at students who aren’t performing on grade level and how to best intervene with those students so they don’t get further and further behind.

However, the Kentucky team looking at RtI believes what’s missing from the national model concerns students who are above benchmarks and need interventions to keep them engaged and challenged.

“We know nationally a good portion of our dropouts are students who are identified as gifted and talented, so we want to make sure we are watching both ends of the extremes,” Pieper said. “That is the difference.”

“It’s not just a screening for special needs identification,” Hatter added.

If schools struggle to see a need to provide interventions for gifted students, Pieper suggests schools focus on each student’s specific needs.

“Intuitively schools know that interventions should be provided for every child who needs them,” Pieper said. “Tier 1 is core instruction, what all students get. Tier 2 and Tier 3 are intensive and supplementary in nature for the students who need a little bit more. Once you lay that out, schools get that RtI can be for anyone who needs it.”

Pieper said the key to identifying students who have reached benchmarks but still need interventions comes from data analysis and picking up on if they are reaching their fullest potential.

“There are lots of flags,” she said, mentioning truancy and skipping classes. “Sometimes these are kids who aren’t quite labeled gifted and talented. They are just under the radar for identification.”

Pieper praised recent RtI work in several school districts that are being proactive in meeting the requirements of HB 69, which requires districts to report to KDE on the use of K-3 RtI implementation. HB 69 sets reading, writing, mathematics and behavior requirements that are phased in through 2015.

Pieper complimented the Harrison and Campbell county school districts for their efforts.

Hatter said needs for her district change so frequently that elementary and secondary intervention models have gone through five revisions since 2010.

“Each revision has led to great conversations, meaningful change and hopefully a better system for our students,” she said.

Harrison County has a district RtI team that meets every eight weeks, and this school year middle and high school intervention teams will meet with the district team to see how the two systems can work together.

Hatter said teachers are the “key players” in RtI and KSI success as a system.

“We rely on them to let us know what is working, what is not and how we can build the best system for student success to take place,” she said.

Connie Pohlgeers is director of school improvement for the Campbell County school district.

She said her district has been extremely active in RtI implementation.

Campbell County has:

  • designated RtI coordinators for each building who coordinate the efforts of building-level RtI teams. These specialists serve a dual role acting also as school psychologists for the district.
  • used Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) as a districtwide assessment tool for universal screening and progress monitoring for reading and mathematics
  • trained all regular education teachers, special education teachers, intervention teachers and para-educators working with students in grades K-11 to administer and interpret assessment tools
  • incorporated three benchmark dates in the districtwide assessment plan for grades K-11
  • completed progress monitoring of all students receiving supplemental instruction/intervention
  • utilized grade-level meetings and common plan time to discuss/analyze data and match students to interventions and are analyzing students’ response to those intervention
  • designed a K-9 Universal Behavior Screener, which is administered three times per year according to the district assessment plan.

“We are in the process of revising behavior protocols this year,” Pohlgeers said.

Pohlgeers added that Campbell County has several long-term goals including fine-tuning Tier 2 classroom-based interventions and Tier 3 intervention options for reading and mathematics.

“At Campbell County, we are proud of our work in developing Response to Intervention protocol within our district,” Pohlgeers said. “With a willingness to do whatever it takes, we believe that the leveled interventions available can enable all students to succeed.”

Pieper has advice for schools and district wanting to make their inventions more effective.

“The most important thing a school needs to do when looking at its interventions is ensure that Tier 1, that core instruction, is followed,” Pieper said. “If it’s not, you’re going to have more and more students in your supplementary and your intensive interventions. The triangle model says 80 percent of your students should be performing at proficiency in Tier 1; and there’s 10 percent in Tier 2 and 5 in Tier 3,” she added. “What you’re finding when a school has a Tier 1 that’s not solid is those upper numbers are much higher. There may be 20-30 percent of the school in Tier 2, and that’s because there are problems in the core instruction.”

It’s critical that educators look at RtI as a new way of thinking instead of simply a new program, Pieper said.

“For the longest time, teachers have been trained to teach to the middle and hope the other kids get it,” she said. “This is about fully looking at the individual needs of each student and addressing them where they are at to take them as far as possible. This is a way of thinking that can be very revolutionizing to the school as a whole. The schools and districts going through this process will tell you it’s very worth it.”

MORE INFO …
April Pieper, april.pieper@education.ky.gov, (502) 564-4970
Connie Pohlgeers, connie.pohlgeers@campbell.kyschools.us, (859) 635-2173
JennyLynn Hatter, jennylynn.hatter@harrison.kyschools.us, (859) 234-7110

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