Friday, February 4, 2011

Nothing a young person wants to hear

I am fairly young in my school. I'm 22 years old, and fresh out of college. I have a lot of technical knowledge, but not a lot of experience. I can be good at my job, but I can also be really, really, really bad. I'm not adverse to getting ideas, and I put them into play as I can see them working out.

However, I do have a lot of technical knowledge. Espeically when it comes to implimenting programs in a school because I've been given a lot of theory and seen them put into place. Does this mean I know exactly how, no, but I'm working on it.

My teammates have noticed I'm getting stressed. Yes, I am. A lot of my stress stems from the fact that nothing in our school is pinned down. It seems like a lot of guesswork based off of research that no one actually wants to do anything with except for the fact that we're being forced to do so. So yeah, as a go-doer, I'm stressed.

Yesterday my "mentor" came to talk to me. She'd noticed I was getting stressed and wanted to check up. However, she also said that I was taking too much on and that I needed to focus in the classroom. I knodded and agreeded, except I refused to step down from the RTI committee because I love the RTI committee. I love it. It's good for MY instruction. Somewhere in the middle of it I said, "I probably know as much as X-Teacher does about the RTI process." Did I say I absolutly knew more? No. Did I leave room for doubt, even in my mind, yes. Do I really think I know more about implementing the process as X-Teacher does, no! However, I know more about it than teachers who were teaching before the law was passed and have never taken classes on it. My mentor didn't take this very well and to make along story short told me I need to respect my "elders" more. (In as many words too.)

Really. Really. I know I'm young enough to be her daughter, but really? I'm a professional too. When someone has more knowledge I listen. Do I give my input? SURE, I'm a professional. However, when faced with people with more experience I listen. What my mentor has just done has alienated me from her support. Rather than reassure me that she really does believe I can teach, she has made me into a child again in her eyes.

Am I doing too much? Yeah, probably. Am I stressed? Yeah. But I'm a teacher. I think they go together.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Broken RTI

I haven't written much, not so much because I've nothing to write about, but rather because there has been nothing GOOD to write about. The first year is brutal. I'm understanding that. My class of new kids isn't helping. The school counselor said my class still "acts" new. We haven't become a part of the culture, and quite frankly, at this point we won't!

However, that is neither here nor there. I'm here to talk about RTI- Response to Intervention.

The purpose of RTI is to get to kids before they hit 3-4 grade. To identify them in kindergarten and 1st grade and get them back on target. It is a better alternative to the IQ-Discrepancy scores most schools use to place students in special education.

RTI ideally has 4 levels.
  • Level 1- Universal Screening. Everyone is tested using some standardized scale (MAP, DIBELS, Standford-10,whatever!) and given a placement score. This is done within the first 2-3 weeks of school and NO LATER. Scores are recorded, teachers are informed of the norms, and teachers now have solid data. (I firmly believe this should happen BEFORE the kids come to school, or in that first week. For schools with over a thousand students this can be difficult, which is why I give the window.)
    After these tests are administered teachers then gather to interpret results and identify the students who are really struggling. They contact past teachers, dig into the cumulative folders (the folders that have everything on the kids!) and make sure they know this child's past. If the child is scoring significantly under then they get moved to Tier 1.
  • Tier 1- These students are brought to a team of teachers that specialize in helping struggling students. They give 2-3 suggestions of low-stress interventions that the teacher is REQUIRED to implement at least 2 of on a regular consistent basis. They are required to measure these interventions in some way (which will be given to them by the Tier 1 team) on a weekly basis for 6 weeks.
    Once the 6 weeks is over the child is brought back to the first core team. They see if any progress is being made. If there is, then continue the interventions until the child is up to par with the rest of the class. If there isn't, this child is bumped up to Tier 2.
  • Tier 2- At the same meeting (after 6 weeks) the teacher is given much more intensive interventions. This may be small group work, or computer tutors, or other such interventions that fit a severely struggling student. These interventions can be predetermined by the team! These interventions are tried for 6 weeks and progress is monitored at least twice a week and recorded. (Graphs are good for RTI.)
    6 weeks has passed. The team convenes again to discuss the child. Are they making progress? If yes, then keep the interventions. Now, let me state, I don't mean - have they made it to grade level, I mean, Have they made PROGRESS. Are they learning using these interventions. If yes, report this to the team, and keep using them. If they're flat lining and showing no progress, it's time for Tier 3.
  • Tier 3- This is a child that needs 1 on 1 one 1 on 2 instruction. They are so severely behind and not improving at all that they cannot do what needs done in the classroom. This is where you begin to severely modify their activities so they can learn. You pull in outside help if needed (tutors, etc.). This child is given the very best support that the team can offer. This will vary from school to school, but it needs to be focused and intense. Once again, continue for 6 weeks, but make sure you take DAILY evaluations of student learning.
    At the 6 weeks the child comes back to the team. IF they've made no progress then you have a serious case for pull-out special education classes. You get the child tested for behavioral, emotional, mental, learning disorders. You look into things outside of the classroom. These kids have proven they can't do it in a regular classroom, and need more support.
You're probably reading this and shaking your head. "But anyone in a class could make it to special-ed then!" But keep in mind when we say progress we're not saying grade-level. We're asking the question, "Are the students learning and able to retain that learning?" A low student will probably remain low despite our best efforts. We are they to get them learning. If we can get a child in 2nd grad who's reading at a kindergarten level up to at least beginning second by the end of the year, we've accomplished an amazing thing. At some point, the child will catch up. It may be 5th grade. It may be 7th. In fact, they may not catch up till the last year of college. But they will, because there is a level of competence that is required for Adult-hood, and the moderately low kids will get there.

Imagine a class of 30. (Much more realistic than an example of 20.) Of these thirty kids, about 7-8 might qualify for Tier 1. Of those 7-8 about 3-4 might qualify for tier 2. Of those 3-4 about 1-2 will qualify for tier 3. Of those two, probably only 1 will make it to special education.

This is how RTI should work. It's build on Data, data, data, data. And of course, professional judgement. If you place a child in Tier 1, then find out they're just a bad test taker, you take them out.

I cry when I see RTI being implemented so clumsily in schools. It takes time, it takes effort yes, but in the end- IQ-Discrepancy scores should be tossed out the wayside. They'll be replaced by concentrated efforts to help every child learn, no matter their IQ. A low IQ child can still learn, it'll just be slower. The progress monitoring will show growth, especially if taken on a daily/bi-daily/weekly basis. As fast as we hope? Maybe not, but the growth will BE there. We won't have a child who's been in the care of our school for years, only beginning to get help in 4th grade.

Now, I just wish I could get my school to realize the simplicity of this program...

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