Voices from the Classroom: Pat Dial

Response to Instruction and Intervention is a hot topic in Tennessee and across the country these days, but what is it? In Tennessee, we’re calling it RTI2: Response to Instruction and Intervention. In a nutshell, it’s a framework where school leaders take the great teaching practices—building in time for differentiating instruction and intervening when students need extra help—from their classrooms and expanding them to their entire schools.

Pat Dial is the Response to Instruction and Intervention Coordinator at Summertown Elementary School.

Pat Dial is the Response to Instruction and Intervention Coordinator at Summertown Elementary School.

The department’s Teacher Ambassador, Eva Boster, interviewed a Lawrence County Response to Instruction and Intervention Coordinator who is helping her school transition to RTI2. Pat Dial is the RTI2 Coordinator at Summertown Elementary School, and brings more than 30 years of experience to the classroom. Dial says transitioning to RTI2 has been one of the most powerful tools she’s used for increasing student achievement. Through the transition to RTI2, Dial is helping her teachers hold high expectations for all students, and helping give students the tools to meet those expectations. Here she talks about how the transition to RTI2 has helped her uncover student misunderstandings, and give all students the resources they need to achieve success in every day instruction.

What motivates you to teach?

Simple, I love children.  I enjoy the challenges and rewards that come with motivating teachers and students to be their very best.

What is your biggest challenge as a teacher?

Communication is my biggest challenge. Many times I think I have clearly conveyed the purpose of my conversation with parents, teachers or students only to find out the listener heard an entirely different message. Learning how to make sure everyone “gets it” is my biggest obstacle.

What conversations are teachers in your school having now as you align to RTI2?

In Lawrence County, we have been working on strengthening intervention and enrichment for the last several years. The secret to the success or failure of RTI2 lies in core instruction. By building a solid foundation through core instruction that supports 80-85 percent of students in becoming proficient or advanced on skills, intervention becomes manageable. If core instruction is weak, more students will need extra help requiring valuable time, expensive materials and extra teachers. Everyone benefits if schools are able to build that solid core, focus specialized help on the remaining few, and provide enrichment for advanced students.

In our school, we have focused on how to help teachers “beef up” core instruction. We are also considering the best way to get administrators trained to know what to look for in core instruction. Finally, we are asking, “What does solid core instruction consist of and what are best practices?”  At the present time, the RTI Coordinators have completed a RTI2 guide/manual study and we are sharing this information with all administrators.

How do you decide which skills to target with students during an intervention time?

We first assess all students to determine whether students are meeting standards set for their grade level. For students who aren’t meeting the standard, we dig deeper to determine individual strengths and concerns of skills.

Often our students struggle with reading, so we invest a lot of time uncovering each child’s specific needs. Reading really is rocket science!

For math, we use the diagnostic pre-test and post-test to determine which students need extra help with math skills.  Again, we target the foundational math skill that needs to be remediated first and then work up the skill ladder from there.

Your school district, Lawrence County, is very invested in “data teams.” What is a data team and how does it impact your work in the classroom?

Our data teams follow one of two formations: grade-level or subject-level.  Using test data on an ongoing basis to drive our instruction and intervention is a huge task. We try to schedule meetings bi-monthly during the teachers’ common planning time. The teachers have their latest data already sorted and analyzed when they get to the meeting, so that we can use the meeting to discuss intervention/enrichment groups and to make changes where they are needed to help our students become proficient or advanced on all skills.

What advice do you have for teachers as they collaborate with their colleagues in analyzing student data and planning for student achievement?

  1. Seek professional development on effective data meetings.
  2. Meetings must be scheduled well in advance so that all members have time to come to the meeting prepared.
  3. Have an agenda for the meetings and stick to the agenda.  Don’t let it become a gripe session.
  4. Keep your mission at the forefront: helping all students make gains one skill at a time!

Note: For more information on interventions please check out Tennessee’s RTI manual released in August 2013 (here).

If you would like to share your voice from the classroom, please email TNClassroomChronicles@gmail.com.

We would love to listen!