DeKalb Co. RTI2: Scheduling to support all students

By Jerre Maynor, Director of Student Readiness

Ensuring that students get the academic support they need when they need it is the intent of the state’s Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2) framework. The RTI2 framework began official implementation for high schools beginning in the 2016–17 school year. As we have concluded the first year of full implementation, it’s a great time to highlight early wins and what educators are learning along the way. In this four part series, we spotlight promising practices found in Tennessee high schools.

RTI2 is for all students, not just students who struggle academically. When considering how the RTI2 framework can support the success of all students, enrichment is a key component of any program. Enrichment refers to opportunities for students to deepen or extend their learning through more rigorous content, activities, or learning goals. Offering additional credit-bearing courses, additional preparation for early postsecondary exams (such as Advanced Placement), or work-based learning are all examples of enrichment activities. Like Karns High School in Knox County, DeKalb County High School is using RTI2 to offer enrichment opportunities that support student success in high school and postsecondary preparation.

DeKalb County High School (DCHS) began implementing RTI2 in the 2013–14 academic year. After several iterations of scheduling options, DCHS settled on a schedule of five 60-minute blocks and one 45-minute “skinny” block. The “skinny” block is the third period of a six period day. All students have enrichment or intervention at this time and all teachers have a teaching responsibility. Principal Kathy Bryant and assistant principal Jenny Norris acknowledge that changing the schedule nearly every year for four years has been a challenge for everyone. Along the way, however, they have grounded their decisions by focusing on one goal: “How do we best serve the most students we can?”

DeKalb County High School Schedule

This year, nearly 20 percent of DCHS students are receiving Tier II or Tier III intervention and students have access to 11 additional courses, including AP Computer Science, ACT Prep, Honors Personal Finance, and Honors Biology. While DCHS has offered dual enrollment through Motlow State for several years, Bryant and Norris are constantly working to create additional early postsecondary and career development opportunities for their students. By thinking creatively about scheduling, DCHS has added a work-based learning program to align with the last period of the day and they are working on articulation agreements with nearby Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) in McMinnville, Murfreesboro, and Livingston, for programs in automotive maintenance, information and business technology, and construction.

Over the last three years, they have experienced consistent ACT growth both in composite scores (growing from a 17.7 to an 18.8) and all sub-scores. Stronger ACT scores translated into a significant jump in HOPE Scholarship eligibility, as well, from 26.6 percent of students in 2015 to 34 percent in 2016. Finally, DCHS improved its graduation rate from 95.8 percent (2015) to 97.6 percent (2016). Most importantly, with RTI2 in place, all students at DCHS have more opportunities and supports than ever before. And that’s something everyone in the district can be proud of.

For more information about RTI2 at DeKalb County High School, you can contact Jenny Norris at