Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Remaking Response to Intervention (RTI)

Overall I have been happy with the fact that we started an RTI program in math and ELA at school. I believe that our initial efforts to employ RTI boosted our ability to collaborate as teaching teams with regard to serving students well. Our RTI efforts have helped us to look at data together with a holistic lens, and together make decisions about teaching techniques that support student learning.

Now I believe it is time to grow our RTI efforts in new ways--ways that will elevate what we can do with and for students. I believe we can better personalize our approach to truly help students gain confidence, skill, concept, and knowledge.

As I think about this desire to remake RTI, I am considering the following changes.

Greater Consistency and Better Teacher-Student/Student-Student Partnerships
The current model is based on flexible groups that changes every six weeks. That means that each group meets with a teacher for approximately 6 hours over a six-week period including two half hour periods each week. I believe that's not enough time to solidify the kind of trusting relationship with a teacher that leads to deep and beneficial learning. This is particularly true for students who may be reluctant or resistant learners for all kinds of reasons--those students especially need a trusting relationship in order to learn well.

To offer greater consistency, I believe that we should match our most resistant and reluctant learners with the most qualified staff for periods much longer than six weeks, and perhaps for a whole year in order to develop the kinds of bonds that lead to trusting relationships and successful learning.

Better Learning Targets Based on DeepKnowledge of Students
At present, our groupings are based on unit tests. I don't think that these tests are the best way to determine how we group students. I believe that we will do better if we group students along the lines of the kinds of foundation deep skills, knowledge, and concept that students need to shore up their mathematical mindset and ability to do all kinds of grade-level math work. Rather than basing groups on a unit test, I believe we should look deeply at a child's overall math mindset and abilities, and then decide what that child needs and how we can provide that learning opportunity for the child in engaging and meaningful ways.

Inform Instruction with Assessment
As it stands now, children are grouped and the focus is the skills they missed on the unit test, but typically, students are not retested or given the kinds of formative assessments that allow students to actually see and track their growth. I believe that if educators are working consistently with same children, it will be much easier to integrate the kinds of formative assessments that allow children to determine how their skills, knowledge, and concept are growing. These kinds of informal, formative assessments along with consistent dialogue with the children will grow a child's sense of ownership and success with regard to their math abilities, needs, and interests.

Personalized, Self-Directed Math Time
The transition time, staffing challenges, and frequent rotations, I believe, do not lead to the kind of deep, personal, and self-directed math learning possible in the tech age we live in. For students who are clearly gaining skill during core math times, I believe that RTI should be a time for those students to use a responsive learning menu to lead their learning in their homerooms. The menu would be made by the core teacher in ways that target specific students' needs via a number of math learning requirements and choices. Students would use this time to direct their learning and learn how to learn by making choices, working with teacher-coaches, and collaborating with one another. This RTI approach would include a consistent pattern of a brief introduction, accessing the learning menu, making good choices, and feedback from the teacher about overall performance, choices, and learning gains.

Overall I believe that we can elevate what we do with RTI by retaining the good collaboration we've utilized in the past while changing the existing structure to better serve all students. I look forward to working with colleagues to discuss this in the days ahead. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

Related Notes from Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: