Effective Teaming and Collaboration within RTI
This Talk has now concluded.
Please scroll down to the bottom of this page to view the questions and the Drexel Hill team's answers.
In this RTI Talk, members of the RTI team from Drexel Hill Middle School (DHMS), in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania answer your questions about school-wide approaches to collaboration and teaming to meet the needs of all learners within an Reponse to Intervention (RTI) framework.
After a year of successfully incorporating data meetings and making AYP for the first time, DHMS took on the task of implementing RTI in September of 2008. Interventions initially were used in sixth grade during a newly created class period. The program met with success and was subsequently used in some sections of seventh and eighth grade as well. Currently, the school is making plans for full implementation in all grades next school year.
Join Principal Jonathan Ross and members of the Drexel Hill team as they share lessons learned and important outcomes after two years of RTI implementation.
Read more about Drexel Hill Middle School Team
The reallocation of resources has really shown up in the form of people- how we use all of our teachers and space to make this framework successful. We are fortunate that our framework and school has been selected by Pennsylvania’s Department of Education as a "Secondary RtI Learning Site," which came with a stipend as well as free support.
As we prepare for next year, we have decided to adjust the schedules for our seventh and eighth-grade ELLs, so that they can receive RtI training as well as one or two periods of ELL instruction. The number of periods of ELL instruction is determined by each ELL student’s performance on Pennsylvania’s required annual assessment for ELLs, the WIDA ACCESS Test for ELLs or the initial screening tool for ELLs, the W-APT. Pennsylvania’s requirements for screening, placement and instruction of ELLs is outlined in the Revised Basic Education Circular for ELLs from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. We will arrange a meeting with the parents of ELL students to explain why their schedules need to be adjusted to allow for RtI instruction and ELL instruction.
- For more information about the origins of the WIDA Consortium visit: http://www.wida.us/assessment/ACCESS/origins.aspx
- For more information about the WIDA ACCESS Test for ELLs visit: http://www.wida.us/assessment/ACCESS/index.aspx
- For more information about the W-APT visit: http://www.wida.us/assessment/w-apt/index.aspx
- To see the Revised Basic Education Circular for ELLs from the Pennsylvania Department of Education: http://www.pde.state.pa.us/k12/cwp/view.asp?A=11&Q=45272
The only concern from parents was our ability to train and sustain the framework. The district has made it a priority to sustain the RtI framework because of its success in helping the district meet it’s AYP goals and also witnessing individual student success in reading and math achievement results.
Many of the research-based interventions are scripted, so reading specialists and special education teachers—once properly trained—can turn around and encourage, support, and train other teachers. We also did a tremendous amount of research on RtI from an administrative standpoint. Very little information at the time we initiated this process existed about secondary RtI, but the elementary principles were very applicable. We knew that we had to meet the individual specific reading needs of our students, and a one-size fits all program was not the answer.
We continue to work with Lehigh University, the Pennsylvania Training & Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN), and district level personnel to garner more knowledge and better methods for successful implementation of RtI.
We are currently discussing another data collection tool, but we feel the Excel spreadsheet allowed us to look at individual student information collected over time. We made the Excel spreadsheet decision at the building level while the CDA database was a central office decision.
When students demonstrate growth on various assessments and earn the opportunity to move into another tier, we feel very successful. Students also feel motivated by the additional reading interventions and looked forward to seeing their individual growth. We also feel very strongly that the RtI framework allows us to meet the needs of every student.
We also had a school-wide informational, historical presentation from PaTTAN on RtI. Essentially, the entire school needed and received training on sub-skill reading development, the relationship between oral reading fluency and comprehension, and having confidence and trust in one another. The best and most important moment of re-defining roles happened when teachers began to teach one another, for example, reading specialists were able to train regular and special education teachers and administrators about intervention programs.
We have since begun math RtI in the 6th grade by identifying students who need additional help, and they receive an additional 42-minute period of math instruction throughout the school day.
Drexel Hill Middle School has plans to incorporate school-wide positive behavior supports through Character Counts as well as Restorative Practices (a framework that offers help before and after students are disciplined—it is a very collaborative framework for students once they reenter the school environment). We have planned and trained to implement each new phase of RtI well in advance, so teachers are familiar with the process. We survey teachers about dates, times, and locations in order to accommodate them for training purposes.
The interventions also presented a few challenges. In order to keep the fidelity of the interventions, small class sizes were required. The district had to commit to hire additional support staff in order to deliver interventions.
We have addressed these challenges by being flexible and open to required changes in schedule and teaching responsibility. Often teachers had to accept students mid-year moving through inventions based on progress. We listen and collaborate with our staff and RtI team.
We know that the term "core" refers to the curriculum, in every subject, that all students can access. We are a school with 25 subgroups. This means we have 40 or more students within one or more of the following state descriptors as economically disadvantaged, special education, ethnicity, and ELL. We do have a core curriculum for all subjects.
Drexel Hill Middle School has what we like to call a "quasi core." These 100 6th grade students do not have access to the core language arts program; rather, these students attend a reading/language arts program (Ramp-Up to Literacy) for a block period at the end of the day in conjunction with a specific reading program (RtI) provided early in the morning. These 100 students who read two or more years below grade level receive a 90-minute reading/language arts program called Ramp-Up to Literacy from Americas Choice.
This program is research-based and serves to help students get back to grade level for reading. Once this occurs, the students will then have access to the core language arts program (Prentice Hall).
Our RtI framework is a hybrid- a combination of standard protocol and problem solving. The hybrid approach applies a standard research-based intervention to meet the specific needs of each student. We problem solve for students once a student makes or does not make progress. Consequently, students have the ability to move through our three-tiered system for academic and behavioral interventions.
Drexel Hill Middle School's schedule has a daily 45-minute period of time to conduct team meetings. During this 45-minute period of time, we met weekly in our intervention teams in order to discuss student progress and use of the intervention (time also designated as daily team time, but we used it for both the team and intervention); and as time went on, we were able to have these meetings monthly. Again, this is ongoing professional development built into the school day.
We also utilized this time to train for interventions and look at data. We collect progress-monitoring data weekly, bi-weekly, and quarterly depending on the student’s tier level. The data is analyzed to see if the student is in the appropriate program. It became evident during our Winter Benchmark that students placed in the Soar to Success program did not demonstrate increased rate of oral reading fluency as anticipated. We contacted PaTTAN to make sure the validity of the program would not be comprised if we added Read Naturally as a second intervention. After adding the second intervention, student’s oral reading fluency rates did improve.
Our cable network has been accessed and utilized to present an overall explanation of the goals and the data of RTI to the entire community. The school psychologist wrote and developed an explanation of individual student progress monitoring results using the AIMSweb system. The psychologists explained to parents how to read graphs and how to address the needs of their children. An hour and half program was produced and shown to parents over the cable network repeatedly as part of an educational program for parents.
Investigation of our core curriculum at the Elementary level is what led to development of a new core curriculum. That is how serious it was. A poorly written or executed curriculum can, in fact, be the root cause of such low proficiency rates. Its unlikely that 80% of your students are learning disabled, you have to look at instruction.
We then added to this culture by using regular assessments to gauge the progress of students and use Team Data Meetings to focus on strands of identified weakness. This gave teachers an opportunity to actually see specific areas where the students needs were not being met. We then used the success of our Elementary RtI program to build upon with our sixth grade students, expanding the program into seventh and eighth grade as the year went on.
There is a language to RtI and you need to make sure that the staff grasps the language and the framework before you implement it. The idea is to build capacity in your building so everyone has at least a basic level of understanding about the reason and process of the Tiered RtI framework.
Many of the research-based interventions are scripted, so reading specialists and special education teachers—once properly trained—can turn around and encourage, support, and train other teachers.
We recommend that you begin the RTI process by creating a collaborative team of basic subject teachers, psychologists, administrators, reading and special education teachers, and specialists. PaTTAN (see Additional Resources) was a very valuable resource for us as well as NCLD's RTI Action Network.
That concludes our RTI Talk for today. Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful questions and thanks to our experts, the Drexel Hill Middle School Team, for their time today.
Related Reading from RTINetwork.org:
- Building Support, by George Batsche, Ed.D.
- Create Your Implementation Blueprint, Stage 2: Installation, by Susan L. Hall, Ed.D.
- The Need for Professional Learning Communities, by Stevan J. Kukic, Ph.D.
- There are All Kinds of Ways to Measure Progress, by Bob Heimbaugh