Our friends over at the Bluff City Education blog wrote an interesting series about the State of Tennessee response to Instruction & Intervention (RTI²) initiative, which is the support system for those struggling to adapt to Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  The blog is the voice for both Shelby County educators and those who engage directly with the education profession who want to publish their thoughts on education policy.

Here are the first four entries from the series:

New Series: Response to Instruction & Intervention (RTI2)

Sixteen scholars entered our school in 6th grade this year as non-readers. Non-readers, meaning they did not even have a grasp on basic letter-sound correspondence. That’s over 15% of our population, which is consistent with what we saw last year. Obviously, there’s a problem when so many kids go through six years of elementary school without learning how to read.

This is a big reason why, about a year ago, Tennessee announced an exciting new education reform initiative.

No, I’m not talking about Common Core State Standards (CCSS), although this initiative is not altogether separate from CCSS.

The initiative I’m talking about is RTI – or, in Tennessee, RTI², which stands for Response to Instruction & Intervention. RTI² has not received the same amount of attention as CCSS, but the former is essential to the latter’s success.

To read more, click here.

RTI2 Series: Successfully Implement Common Core with RTI2

There’s a young man at our school – let’s call him Dedric (his name has been changed for issues of privacy) – who has always been a good student. He made good grades in elementary and was Proficient last year on the Reading/Language Arts portion of TCAP. But he’s struggling a little this year, earning a D first semester.

Dedric, you see, is having difficulty transitioning to Common Core. Language Arts is much more rigorous now, with a heavy emphasis on writing and defending claims. It’s no longer enough to get the correct answer, which in itself is now more of a challenge, but you also have to explain why your answer is correct and why other options are incorrect. Textual evidence is required for every assignment, and reading passages are utilized more and are more complex.

That’s a big leap from TCAP expectations, which involved more rote memorization and multiple choice options. And that’s why Dedric went from scoring Proficient to struggling to earn a D.

For every Dedric, there are many struggling even more. Most of our incoming 6th graders scored Basic or Below Basic and were even less prepared for the increased rigor of Common Core than Dedric.

This is a national trend. Kentucky was the first state to implement a Common Core-aligned test in 2012, and scores plummeted. New York experienced a similar drop in scores this past year with its first Common Core tests.

To read more, click here.

RTI² – General Education & Special Education Implications

In our last post, we discussed the supports needed for a successful transition to the more rigorous Common Core State Standards (CCSS). And we applauded Tennessee for rolling out their Response to Instruction & Intervention (RTI²) initiative simultaneously with CCSS. The timing is not accidental. RTI² is the support system for those struggling to adapt to CCSS.

But let’s look at an individual case to examine how RTI² will impact how we deliver both general education and special education services.

Take Chris (not his real name), a 6th grader with a diagnosed learning disability. Chris came to Grizzlies Prep this year without even a basic grasp of the alphabet. His previous school had placed him in a special education classroom several years ago, presumably to get extra support, but he still left elementary school without the most basic of literacy skills.

RTI² calls for a different type of support for scholars like Chris.

RTI²: Response to Instruction & Intervention

Instead of removing him from the general education classroom, we believe strongly that Chris should be included in the full life of the school, be held to rigorous grade-level expectations, and have access to the same challenging curriculum as his non-disabled peers. That high-level instruction from a great core content teacher is a big piece of the first “I” (Instruction) in RTI².

To read more, click here.

RTI²: Funding, Staffing, and Resource Allocation Policy

In our last post, we said that the brilliance of RTI² is that “kids don’t have to be diagnosed with a disability to receive extra support to help them catch up.” However, there’s a reason that diagnosis – especially the specific learning disability diagnosis – is so frequently used as a mechanism to get help for kids who are behind. And it’s those incentives, as well as possible alternatives, that we want to examine here.

An Example

Take Jaylon (not his real name), a scholar with a diagnosed specific learning disability who has been receiving special education services since the end of 1st grade.

Jaylon obviously needed extra support in elementary school. However, despite four years of special education services, he still entered middle school reading around a mid-1st grade level.

The rate of improvement (ROI) we’ve see from Jaylon this year, though, has been tremendous. After one semester at Grizzlies Prep, he was already reading on a late-2nd grade level and is now on pace to enter 7th grade reading on a 4th grade level. Jaylon still receives special education services, but he requires less and less support as his reading skills improve. Eventually, he may no longer need services.

Seeing an ROI like Jaylon’s makes me question his diagnosis. Does he really have an educational disability, or was he just behind and needed some extra supports to catch up?

To read more, click here.