Tuesday, June 21, 2016

All Means All

If you have a child enrolled in public schools, then he or she is in Response to Instruction and Intervention, or RTI2, whether you realize it or not. The Tennessee State Board of Education adopted RTI2 in 2013 and mandated that districts begin implementing it in 2014 through a phase-in process that is just now reaching high schools across the state.
What, exactly, is RTI2? Basically, all students are divided into three groups: the majority of students who are at or near grade level in math, reading, or Language Arts are in Tier 1, students who are considered to be in the bottom 25th percentile in either of those subjects are in Tier 2, and students in the bottom 10th percentile are in Tier 3. In general, 10-15% of students will qualify for Tier 2 intervention and 3-5% of students will qualify for Tier 3 intervention. Students in Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention will receive further instruction in addition to what they receive in the regular education classroom. The idea behind this program is to keep students from slipping through the cracks when it has been determined that they are lacking mandatory skills, such as reading comprehension or solving word problems in math.
While the intentions of RTI2 are great, this mandated program came with guidelines on how to implement it and no additional funding. As you might expect, educators have mixed feelings about RTI. Essentially, schools are now asked to do more of what they’re already doing anyway--help students. At the same time, RTI2 also stretches educational resources that are already pretty thin.
Hope Street Group Teacher Fellows worked with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) to survey and conduct focus groups with teachers across the state about what’s working with RTI2 and what’s not. Most teachers use a blend of purchased and currently existing classroom resources and most are in favor of the program and have seen students improve, which, of course, is the ultimate goal. With that said, there are some specific areas of RTI2 that need to be improved.
Teachers expressed their collective voice, and the results of the survey and focus groups indicate that TDOE should consider providing schools with additional support in four key areas: scheduling and structure, improving school attitudes toward RTI2, communication around RTI2, and resources and staffing. Because some teachers believe they do not have enough resources and staffing, TDOE should consider providing additional funding to support implementation, and they should provide additional training to teachers on how to successfully implement this program. Teachers want this training to include explicit information on where they can find resources so they can best help their students.
The good news is that additional training is on the way. I just completed training from TDOE on instructional strategies for teachers--especially for those who teach students in Tier 2 or Tier 3. Twenty-nine teachers from around the state and myself will train approximately 1,200 RTI2 teachers the week of June 27th. RTI2 classes are purposely smaller, averaging around 10-15 students. This means that roughly 18,000 Tier 2 and Tier 3 students will benefit from this training, with even more Tier 1 students who will benefit.
Our society generally appreciates and respects educators for the hard work that we accomplish every day without really knowing what that hard work entails. Effective teaching involves much more than creating solid lessons and executing them. Students who are lacking specific skills must be identified and remediation must occur so they do not remain perpetually behind their peers and so that they can eventually graduate and be productive members of society. Many people are unaware that RTI2 exists and how difficult it is to help students who have fallen behind when their motivation is low and when proper training and resources are lacking. Every school in every school district seems to do it differently, with varying degrees of success. At the end of the school day, the expectation of educators across the state is that all students can and will learn.
If you are interested in reading the Executive Summary of Hope Street Group's report over RTI, please click on this link. If you want to read the FULL report, click here!

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