Monday, July 25, 2011

Response to Intervention Part 1: Background Information

N.B.E. Manatee
This is Part 1 of a three part series on the first year of Response to Intervention at Neptune Beach Elementary School.

Response to Intervention, RtI, is not a new thing. Florida, as a whole, and Duval County in particular, spent time discussing it before it became a reality. Prior to implementation we knew Neptune Beach Elementary had to have a plan before taking this school-wide. Luckily there were trailblazers before us to help lead the way.

The first thing our team did was read. Blogs, books, and articles by some of the biggest names and organizations in education were consumed by the boatload. We learned about new websites where we could see what others schools were doing. We also learned from some of their mistakes.

The next thing was to develop a master schedule. Teachers have too much on their shoulders all ready. If we just said, “Fit this in as best you can” then we took the chance it could be dropped. Designating time for RtI helped to make it a reality. This time was considered sacred and no other academics could occur during this time slot. The time slot varied for each grade level. Some schools have had success with one common time for all grade levels to do intervention work. This make sense when a large proportion of the students need interventions. At Neptune Beach Elementary the number was less than 10% of the entire student population. It made sense for the time to be dedicated when there were no other academics occurring and other students were engaged in non-academic tasks.

At the same time we had to identify and train personnel on how to work with struggling learners. We started with reading in primary grades. Even though these students would not take the state test for several years, we felt this was an investment in the future. We kept hearing over and over what takes 30 minutes to remediate in kindergarten and 1st grade takes 2 hours in 4th grade. Since we didn’t have 2 additional hours in the school day, we started working to reduce the number of kids who struggled in reading. By October of 2010 we started five Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) groups.

In November of 2010 we started training three of our upper grade math teachers in America's Choice Math Navigator. NBE lost 50 points between the 2009 and 2010 FCAT, with 32 points occurring specifically in math. By February 2011 we ended up with 5 teachers running Math Navigator groups in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.

Reading, though, was still problematic. We trained additional teachers in LLI to meet the needs of 2nd and 3rd grade students. Currently the LLI program materials only go up to Level N, or the middle of 3rd grade. We are looking for a solution for 4th and 5th grade students. In those grades the identified RtI teachers can use Soar to Success (part of our Houghton Mifflin reading adoption) as well as other materials, such as Corrective Reading.

In the spring we expanded our math intervention groups to include second grade. The entire grade level was screened globally and then specifically in place value. We find the most of our struggling math students have weak conceptual understanding in place value and how numbers work. They can memorize facts but have little recourse when they get problems wrong due to number sense issues. The work done this spring should show an impact next spring when they take the 2012 FCAT.

The next post, Response to Intervention Part 2, will go into the specific guidelines, management tips, and lessons learned from our experiences.

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