by Lorie Gober, RTI2 Interventionist at Siegel High School in Rutherford County
Of the students who do not receive a diploma by age 19, 88% of them are students who struggled with reading in the first few years of elementary school.
Our students deserve better. Education has been rapidly changing in the state of Tennessee to better meet the needs of our students as both parents and educators realize that literacy is the foundation for success in all subject areas. The RTI2, Response to Instruction and Intervention, approach was introduced because we have too many children leaving third grade without the skills necessary to become good readers and successful students.
RTI2 is different than content remediation because it uses student data to target the specific skills students need to be successful, and uses research-based interventions to help them master deficit skills as opposed to reteaching unmastered content. The initiative began in Tennessee at the elementary level and gradually progressed to middle school. Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, all high schools will begin to also offer specific targeted interventions to students. My district decided to begin this process early, and I have spent this school year as the RTI2 interventionist at Siegel High School in Rutherford County.
My goal as an interventionist is to determine my students’ most basic skill needs in reading and make sure my students have the appropriate intervention plan to meet their specific needs. At Siegel High School, the students with reading deficits are first identified by a universal screener. From there, they are assigned to come to my class each day for specific, targeted intervention. Making sure that each of my students has an appropriate, research-based intervention has been time consuming, but it has been very beneficial. Scheduling for RTI2 time can also be very challenging, but as educators, it is necessary for us to equip these students with the skills to be successful no matter the circumstances. Because the time was taken to prioritize RTI2 and determine each student’s individual needs, my students are making gains in reading and feeling more successful in their classes.
Reading challenges are not the same for all students. We as teachers and parents realize that students learn and process information differently. RTI2 also offers students that might have formerly been misidentified as having a learning disability a chance to not only “catch up” with peers, but to also experience success. My hope is that every student who leaves my class feels empowered and better prepared for the general classroom. Targeted intervention on a student’s specific reading deficit will equal success if the time is taken to target and determine the correct intervention.
My role here at Siegel High School is not only confined to work with my students; I also assist classroom teachers in working with their students. Earlier this semester, after I completed an in-service about the role of RTI2, our art teacher approached me and asked if I would help him determine the reading level of the texts he uses with his freshmen students. We discussed how to level text and he went home that night and determined the reading level of all of the passages he uses in class. The next day, he came back to me shocked at how high the reading level of the passages were. This realization spurred him to find different passages with a lower reading level that would be more appropriate to use with his students. This experience reinforced for me the importance of not only my role working with students, but also how I could support regular classroom teachers and impact their students.
It is unacceptable for any student to leave Siegel High School without the ability to read, and sometimes that means making sacrifices. Earlier this year, I was moved when a teacher in my building, who is also the football coach, was willing to make a personal sacrifice for the benefit of a student. One day this teacher asked if I had any extra time to work with a player of his, who he discovered could not read. I shared my available time with the coach and, even though it was during the student’s workout time, he willingly gave that time up so his player could become a better reader. As a result, this student has been developing a skill that will help him one day in college and the workforce.
I am fortunate to work with a supportive faculty in a district that has prioritized and embraced RTI2. The teachers at Siegel High School realize how beneficial it is for our students to get this targeted, reading instruction. By the end of the semester, I have promoted eleven students out of my intervention class who were originally projected to score significantly below the proficiency threshold on our state test. That is the best reward and one of the most positive things about RTI2, simply giving these students the individual help and extra time that they need to see success, many of them for the first time, in their classes.