Schools across our state are focusing on meeting the unique needs of each and every child in their building. We sat down with Theresa Nicholls, Director of Special Education Eligibility at the Tennessee Department of Education, to get the low-down on how Tennessee schools are addressing the needs of their students through Response to Instruction and Intervention, also known as RTI². Theresa discusses key tools schools use, such as universal screeners and progress monitoring, to ensure students are on track.
Classroom Chronicles: What is RTI²? Why is it important for Tennessee kids?
Theresa: RTI² is a framework designed to identify both struggling and advanced students in order to provide them with appropriate interventions in their specific area(s) of need. This is so important because we want all students to be successful with the Tennessee state standards in order for them to be college and career ready. Some students are missing the foundational skills they need to make progress in the core curriculum and therefore need extra help to be successful.
Classroom Chronicles: We keep hearing about teachers using universal screeners to help identify students that need extra help. What is a universal screener?
Theresa: A universal screener reviews basic skills through a quick informal screening. This could be done by looking at how many words a student is able to read or how many math problems he or she is able to solve in a given amount of time. This often varies by district. Universal screeners are designed to help schools figure out which students need more support or other types of instruction.
As a result of universal screeners, students may be identified as needing extra help in addition to the high quality instruction they regularly get in class. Extra help or interventions are used to support students in the area(s) in which they are struggling. The interventions should be research or evidence based. In other words, they are teaching strategies or methods that have been proven effective in helping children learn.
Classroom Chronicles: What is progress monitoring?
Theresa: Progress monitoring is a way for teachers to take a snapshot of how students are doing on a specific skill. This is done by giving a different version of the assessment used for the universal screener. It shows how well the intervention is working. Progress monitoring helps determine whether an intervention is successful or needs to be updated. This information is shared with parents on a regular basis.
Theresa Nicholls is the Director of Special Education Eligibility for the Tennessee Department of Education. She is a member of the Tennessee RTI² Leadership Council and participated in the development of both the RTI² Manual and Implementation Guide. Theresa previously worked as a school psychologist where she collaborated on the implementation of Response to Intervention at both the school and district levels. If you have additional questions about universal screeners, progress monitoring, or RTI², please email Theresa.
Check out our RTI² blog round-up for more on this topic.