After reading Response to Intervention: The future for Secondary Schools by Canter, Klotz, and Cowan, (2008) the Athena High School Math Department’s professional learning community (PLC) discussed and reflected on the RtI process and the current reality of our school.
A couple most valuable points (MVPs) were important to the group. First, parent support and involvement is critical. So often parents are not engaged in the learning of their children for different reasons. Parents should be invited to information sessions and included on advisory councils to provide input into the design of the RtI program.
A second MVP is that Athena should build our RtI model in a realistic time line. Often times educators jump into something without addressing specifics. If something sounds good, we try it for a year and abandon it the year after. For the RtI process to have a successful start next year, we need to be talking about specifics as soon as possible. Going forward as Athena High sets up the RtI process, the decision makers must encourage and seek out parent involvement, and begin planning soon. Decision makers must also not rush something that is not ready.
Some members of our PLC are also reading Pyramid Response to Intervention by Buffum, Mattos, and Weber (2009). This book continues to be a great resource to be used in our work on ensuring that all students learn at high levels. This book describes the RtI model, PLCs, and how to respond when kids don’t learn.
What happens when a student is not learning? Athena High School has created a Tier 3 response to intervention (RtI) program called the “Algebra Opportunity Academy” (Click here for a blog about the specifics of this program). As a result of this credit recovery program, 12 out of 12 students earned credit back for at least one quarter of Integrated Algebra. These 12 students are now on track to pass Integrated Algebra.
In discussing this data with my colleagues, it was clear that there were many reasons why this program worked. The following are a list of 10 ways to ensure a successful credit recovery program (in any content area):
- Colleague support: This was the most essential piece of this program. This credit recovery program was highly dependent upon the math teachers of these credit deficient students. If the math teachers did not trust the rigor or the objectives of the program, we would not have been able to adjust student grades. Colleague support was also important in the selection of students and in the selection of the power standards that were taught in the program.
- Administrator support: As with most programs, administrators can either be a help or a hindrance. The administrative team at our school supported the math departments efforts and assisted in contacting the students and parents.
- Parent/Guardian support: All students in this program had parents that set the expectation that attendance was mandatory and supported the teachers in their efforts. They also drove or arranged rides for their children when necessary. The transportation component helps to ensure parent commitment.
- College student help: There were 12 students enrolled in the program. Some might argue that a 12:1 student to teacher ratio is acceptable. Perhaps, but a 2:1 student to teacher ratio is better and offers much higher instructional intensity. We arranged six math education college students to come in to assist us in the program. Many of these students needed a much smaller group to fully master a topic.
- Quick and specific feedback: As this program took place over a short amount of time, it was important to give the students as much feedback as possible to ensure that they were able to “correct” their mistakes. The Castle Learning website assisted us in providing quick and specific feedback.
- Multiple modalities: This program offered students an opportunity to experience many instructional models: direct instruction, small group activities, computer programs, SMART Response Clickers, Dry Erase Boards, and other lessons that required them to move around the classroom.
- Goal Setting: All students knew their current grade in the course and set a specific numerical goal that they wanted to achieve.
- High expectations for behavior and academics: Clear behavioral and academic expectations were given to students and parents verbally (each parent was called individually) and in written form.
- Targeted assessments: Assessments focused on the essential understandings of the first 2 quarters of Integrated Algebra. The assessments were a combination of written and electronic (Castle Learning).
- Food: All students were given snacks and a lunch. Some could argue that this is not needed, but the food resulted in higher student morale, greater student energy, and a positive motivator to work hard.
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The Athena math department continues to ask the question “What happens when a student is not learning?” In response to this question, we have created a response to intervention (RtI) system (see diagram below). This system consists of 3 tiers, with the 3rd tier being the most intensive. A Tier 3 intervention that we recently implemented was a combination of after school and February break sessions. This program was titled the “Algebra Opportunity Academy” (AOA).
As a result of this program, 12 out of 12 students earned credit back for at least one quarter. The average student increased each of their course quarter grades by 7 and a half points! Also, most students liked it, were engaged, and gave positive feedback about the program (see data below from a survey given on the last day). These 12 students are now on track to pass Integrated Algebra.
The following sections are a brief outline of the program:
Students that have an average of below 65% should be placed in this Tier 3 intervention support class. 1st and 2nd quarter grades will be examined, along with teacher recommendations.
As a goal of this program is to recover credit that was not earned in quarters 1 and 2, students will be assessed on AMSCO chapters 1-8. They will be assessed through Castle Learning and written tests. Using Castle Learning, students will have the opportunity to complete extra work at home/off-campus.
Two math teachers with algebra experience will co-teach this program (Maillet & Shoemaker). Teachers will be in close contact with the students’ current Integrated Algebra teachers. Maillet and Shoemaker will select, monitor, and schedule these students in this support class (with assistance from assistant principal).
Teachers will use GCSD approved Integrated Algebra curriculum. In addition, teachers will prepare additional activities that will engage our targeted students; Students will participate in problem solving groups and the Castle Learning program.
Targeted students will increase their average in Integrated Algebra to at least a 70%. These students will build confidence and ideally pass the course and Regents exam (not take this course/exam in summer school).