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 approach the conclusion of 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.
Giles County: Perfecting the Process
At Giles County High School (GCHS), RTI2 coordinator Shonna Phelps remarks that the school leadership set the tone for implementation: “Our principal made it very clear to all staff that there was a need for RTI2 and that it was going to be a priority.” At the start of the year, GCHS identified about 120 students with significant skill deficits. Similar to teachers in Rhea County, it was difficult at first for teachers to transition from teaching grade-level standards to focusing on basic skills in reading and math. In order to support the success of their interventionists, GCHS assigned interventionists to specific interventions based on their expertise and interests. Then, after identifying students’ specific skill deficits through the use of survey level assessments, students with similar deficits were assigned to the appropriate interventionist.
Students were motivated by the concept of strengthening their skill sets and moving forward and Mrs. Phelps worked diligently to make sure students weren’t ‘stuck’ in an intervention if they were making progress.
“Because our students test every other week and chart their own progress, they were motivated to do their best in order to move up to the next skill set/class,” says Phelps. And students weren’t the only ones excited by their progress: “Once they [teachers] saw the rapid improvement of their students, they were very enthusiastic.”
Teaching intervention classes has strengthened teacher effectiveness in Tier I as well, Phelps says. “Because our intervention teachers are also core teachers, they are able to help students bridge the gap between their skill deficits and the content of their core classes.”
So far, over 100 students who began the year in intervention have transitioned back to Tier I.
Beyond successful interventions, the implementation of RTI2 at GCHS has benefitted from the collaborative efforts of school counselors and administrators. “The school counselors were a tremendous asset to our success by ensuring that student schedules were changed promptly when they tested out of one skills class and needed to be placed in another,” notes Phelps. At every staff meeting, administrators shared success stories from RTI2 which both reinforced RTI2 as a priority and validated the hard work of the interventionists.
So what advice does Mrs. Phelps have for other high schools?
“First, find initial assessments that will get down to the specific skills that students are lacking. Then, focus instruction on those specific skills and move students on to the next set of skills when they demonstrate mastery.”
Giles County High School: Implementation Process
1. After identifying students who need intervention, drill down to identify students’ specific skills deficits.
- Instruction is specific to the needs of the students.
- Students with similar needs should be scheduled into similar interventions.
2. Train interventionists in specific deficit areas so that they become the “experts” in teaching those skills.
- Because they are focused on a specific set of skills, interventionists can be placed based on their instructional strengths.
- Limiting the scope of each intervention section makes class preparation more efficient for the interventionists.
3. Enable students to transition between intervention sections immediately (based on progress monitoring data).
- Students are more engaged and motivated when they know exactly what is required to move to the next level.
- Coordination of scheduling is crucial to the efficient and appropriate movement of students between interventions.
For more information about RTI2 at Giles County High School, you can contact Shonna Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org