Friday, September 20, 2013


Let's just put it out there, human beings struggle with change.  For four years we at Warner Elementary have utilized RTI (Response To Intervention).  This program is a Tier System.

Tier 1 is most important, this is the General Education Instruction.  This is effective instruction and behavioral management. Our Tier 1 instruction must be strong.  We create strong Tier 1 instruction through using best practices, collaborating and differentiating.

Tier 2 is strategic.  In this Tier students that have misinterpreted or not understood concepts will receive additional support.  Tier 2 occurs in a variety of ways; teacher differentiation, small group instruction, student conferencing and interventions.  Research states that this will be 10-15% of students in your classroom.  The stronger the Tier 1 instruction, the lower the Tier 2 percentage will be.

Tier 3 is intensive.  Tier 3 instruction will work with 1-5% of our students.  In Tier 3 students will receive one-on-one support.  Tier 3 does not mean a student has a learning disability, what this means is we as educators must "solve the puzzle" of student confusion and the lack of understanding.

For three to four years we have worked on this process.  I have witnessed the good and the bad.  I will also admit I have learned a ton.  I was young and naive, I believed that RTI was all about "The Program" and that the people were interchangeable.  I was wrong.  @ToddWhitaker has taught me that it is always about the PEOPLE!  The PEOPLE are what truly make the difference.

Above is the preface, and now I must get to what occurred last Fall.  Our school was identified as a "Focus" school.  I won't get into a rant on this (but I could).  One of the requirements of being a Focus School was to attend a meeting put on by the MDE.  At this meeting one of the key essentials for Focus Schools is to implement MTSS.  You may say, "What is MTSS?"  MTSS stands for Multi-Tiered System of Support.  The long and short is that MTSS is nearly identical to my opinion.  Some will tell you that MTSS is more in depth and that it is not nearly as general, but they are one in the same.

I will admit that MTSS as a "title" makes more sense than RTI as a "title", but the drawback is, it is change. Change causes confusion and confusion creates frustration.  It's an endless cycle.

The below 4 minute video is about Groups versus Teams by Rick DuFour.  If I'm honest with our process I'll admit we do things our way.  I don't think we do a poor job, but I do believe we must embrace a TEAM first mentality.  Our goal is to reach all students and create life long learners.

Now let's focus on moving forward.  Here is what we must do as a collective whole.

1) We must strengthen General Ed. instruction.  The way we strengthen instruction is by narrowing our focus.  CCSS are more narrow than GLCE's, but I still believe they are too broad.  We as educators must look to the most important.

“If everything is important, then nothing is.― Patrick Lencioni

It is absolutely critical that 80% of students or more are understanding concepts.  Be honest with yourself, if it isn't at least 80% what could you as a teacher do to improve.  Are you using best practices?  Are you differentiating?  Are you collaborating?

2) Work with Intervention Specialists, Tutors and Parents.  Roughly 20% of your students may struggle on certain topics.  This is where we are truly a TEAM.  We must collaborate and work together to assist our students.  Too often I see individuals deflecting.  I hear people mention: home environment, socioeconomic, educational background and lack of materials.  Some things we can control and some things we cannot.  As educators we must do the best we can with what we have, not what we don't have.

3) Formative Assess and Formative Assess some more.  The most commonly overused phrase is, Data Drives Instruction.  I don't entirely agree.  I believe daily and weekly formative assessments drive instruction, but I don't believe summative assessments drive instruction.  As a former classroom teacher I often knew how my students would perform on a summative assessment before they even took the test.  My strong formative assessments would tell me everything I truly needed to know.

4) Finally, don't forget the communication process.  It is vital that we inform parents about student strengths and weaknesses.  We need to inform stakeholders about progress.  The TEAM approach means we must get parents onboard and let them be a valuable part of the process.

I reflect on our journey to support students.

*  I do believe we are making an impact
*  I do believe students should receive intervention and then fluidly move back to Gen. Ed instruction
*  I do believe students receiving Tier 3 support can learn and grow.  Tier 3 does not mean Learning Disabled.
*  I do believe establishing relationships with students will best help student motivation and learning.
*  I do believe in quality over quantity.  We should be assessing the "essential standards" not everything.

Personally I'm trying to find the best balance for our building.  I'm confident that we need procedures, routines and policies, but I also believe in differentiating and being flexible.  I will continue to work through this process.  Supporting students isn't just for the past and present.  We must understand this is a process and it will take dedication to the TEAM!

This week's big question:  How many students have you personally witnessed in Tier 3 intervention and not been on the fast track to Special Education?  Do you have success stories like this?

Next Week At A Glance:

Monday, September 23rd:  Technology Leadership Meeting 1pm
Tuesday, September 24th:  9am TEAM meeting at Warner
Wednesday, September 25th:  K-2 assembly at 8:45
Friday, September 27th: Staff Meeting 8am in Mrs. Holton's room (Please be prompt, we have three guests joining us, Brad Wilson, Stacy Schuh, and Mike MacGuinness.  The topic will focus on Apps in the classroom.)

*  Please email me your SAU tutor interest.  I'd like to know your preferred times.

Articles Worth Reading:

A Sandy Hook parent's letter to teachers @EducationWeek

The Real World  by +Josh Stumpenhorst @stumpteacher

Evaluating, Implementing and Managing Instructional Programs  by +Matt Gomez  @mattBgomez

Student Portfolios (Start the Year Out Right) by +Charity Preston

Duncan's Dilemma  by +Tom Whitby @tomwhitby

Close Reading Overview by +Jerry Blumengarten @cybraryman1

Turning Grading from a Chore into an Opportunity by +Starr Sackstein @mssackstein

86 The Tech Talk  by +Shannon Degan @shannondegan

You Are What You Share by +Krissy Venosdale @venspired

Classroom Design Style by +Erin Klein @KleinErin

Awards and Lists: Hate/Love  +Tom Whitby @tomwhitby

Videos Worth Watching:

Great Song on the 7 Habits! Written and Performed by a middle school student. (4 min)

Proactive versus Reactive (2min)

Great success story about overcoming the odds! (8 min)

Adorable! (6 min)

1 comment:

  1. I am a first grade teacher and I have had experiences with Tier 3 students becoming successful. I think it's because of the age. We have kids who still sometimes need that time to blossom. Just last year, I had 2 different students who were Tier 3 at the beginning and left me at or above reading level. I've also seen it with kids who move in from other districts. Great blog post. Thanks for sharing!