Thursday, July 28, 2011

RTI Conference Notes and Reflections - DAY 2

During day 2 of the RTI training, Dr. Austin Buffum led us through a series of activities.  Since there were so many staff members from my school present, we chose to meet in collaborative grade level teams. Throughout the day we listed and revised our next steps.  These are the steps our team came up with:
  1. Create time/spaces in schedule for effective RTI collaborative efforts: intervention/instruction time, PLCs, professional development time.
  2. Coordinate schedules so that SPED teachers, reading intervention teachers and others can meet with classroom teachers during PLCs and intervention blocks.
  3. Determine essential skills in reading, writing, math.
  4. In PLCs, determine norms, topic time line, and common formative assessments based on essential skills.
  5. Develop school-wide leadership team to report back on grade level efforts.
Dr. Buffum stated, “The best intervention is prevention,” and discussed ineffective interventions vs. effective interventions while prompting us to use research-based interventions.  He reminded us that interventions were for students who struggle as well as students who need greater challenge.

Ineffective interventions included the following:
  1. Leaving interventions up to individual teachers, rather than collective, collaborative decisions.
  2. Remedial classes.
  3. Summer school unless it is highly targeted and timely.
  4. Retention
  5. Punitive actions.
Characteristics of Effective Interventions included:
  1. A sense of urgency -- when we notice a need for intervention, act.
  2. A systematic approach to intervention.
  3. Research-based interventions (FCRR, RELNIE, and PBIS were cited as optimal resources)
  4. Directive interventions during the school day, not invitational.
  5. Timely interventions, feedback and multiple opportunities for practice/growth to develop mastery.
  6. Positive, constructive, frequent feedback and practice. (coaching)
  7. Trained professionals, matching professional skills/experience with targeted intervention.
Dr. Buffum ended the day with a focus on tiered instruction:

  1. Targeted instruction at tier one, strategies that make learning accessible to all. (the core)
  2. Tier two, interventions for those who miss the learning at tier one. (core and more)
  3. Tier three, often individualized and highly specific intervention for those who miss the learning at tier one and two - not just special education.
He encouraged educators to effect change by looking at their classrooms and schools with a focus on internal factors rather than external factors.  Our team listed the interventions we currently use, then using a Tier 1, 2, 3 chart with a dual-focus on children that “won’t work” (behavioral) and those that can’t (skills), we charted our interventions.  The charts revealed areas where we had many interventions and areas where we had few.  Our team utilized many interventions for tier one, but we didn’t have as many in place for tier three related to students who “won’t” work.

At the end of the two-day workshop, our school system was left with a firm understanding of tiered instruction as well as steps for further development of our student-centered, success-for-all programs and practices.  In the days following the workshop, a smaller system-wide team met to think more deeply about how we’ll implement the new learning.  Later individual schools will move forward with the guidance of system-wide recommendations and the more specific grade-level action lists created during the workshop.  

In summary, Buffum led us through a process which will deepen and broaden our practice with respect to success for all students--that’s a mission educators in our system care deeply about. I will support the research-based actions Buffum encouraged, and collaborate with my team to better effect success for all in the standards we deem essential. Next spring, I'll return to these notes and comment about what worked and the challenges that remain.