Panel 2 Speaker: Maria Callis - Lee County Public Schools (FL)

RTI Leadership Forum
Washington, DC
December 8, 2010


My work, I view RTI through the lens of a district instructional leader.  It’s my responsibility to support what happens in our district for all tiers of students, the support we’re providing to them.  And we work on the premise that all students should learn and that we have the opportunity to influence life outcomes for our students and we have been successful in that.  I think maybe I’m kind of unique in that I support secondary reading, and I’ve been doing that for nearly 20 years now in one way or another.  So I work with curriculum programs and staff development at the middle and high school level.  Part of my responsibilities have been or are to facilitate the adoption process that we have for our reading programs, and we do provide grade level or above grade level instruction for our students at the middle school level with specific reading classes in addition to their language arts classes.

The adoption process is not a completely easy job to do, facilitating that, but it’s easier than the other pieces that we have to do after the adoption takes place.  Part of our adoption process is we look at, we train the teachers that are serving on these committees on our district data so that they clearly understand the needs of the students that we have in our district.  We also train them on how to effectively evaluate programs, reading or math programs, depending on what adoption we’re looking at that year.  And they put those two things together.  So those things happen and actually the last reading adoption we did, we spent a week on those two things with those committees of teachers before those teachers ever began looking at the different instructional programs that were on our selection list.

After the adoptions take place, we do work on monitoring the effectiveness of the implementations.  And this is for our RTI processes as well.  We rely on student data, student achievement data.  We also rely on feedback from all of our stake holder groups.  We provide opportunities for administrators, for teachers, and for parents to give feedback on how things are going, and then we use that to help drive and provide our sustained support for our processes and the implementations that we have.  We’re continually looking to improve the support that we provide and this is creating those conditions for success.  What do we need to do to have those available?  We look at adding to all aspects here.  Part of what we use for this is going back to monitoring, the assessment data, the feedback from the stake holders, and also being present and collecting information on the implementations in the schools.

When we look at eliminating operator error in our district, we have 80,000 students and within that 80,000, we have a 40% mobility rate within our district within a year.  So we have to have systemic processes in place that are in all schools as our kids move from school to school.  At the district level, we provide for continual professional development opportunities.  We have to review and recycle pieces that we’ve already done because we have up to 10 to 12% turnover in our teaching staff each year so we have to keep continually training these new teachers coming in in what our processes are and how to implement what we’re doing.  But we’re also adding to those professional development opportunities each year by creating new training for the administrators as they’re supporting in their schools, the coaches that are supporting in the schools, and the teachers on instruction, data analysis, and the implications for instruction from data analysis.  That’s one of the things that we’ve really worked hard to promote in our district is that we’re not administering assessments that would not have any implication for instruction then because we did have a situation where our students are being over-assessed, and that needed to be taken into account.  We look at how much time are the reading coaches spending on assessment versus actual instructional impact or modeling and coaching with what’s happening in the classrooms with our students.  And that’s an important piece for us.

We also look at eliminating operator error and this is across all content areas for all of our students.  We look at minimizing the variance of instruction across the district.  That’s important with that 40% mobility rate.  We have academic plans that we’ve designed at the district level that address the standards that teachers are to be teaching for each course.  We have essential concept instructional guides that lay out processes for teaching the content and then we also have common course exams that we’ve developed within our district to judge our effectiveness then on how are we teaching our academic appointments, how well are we teaching our academic appointments.

We also have coaching support within the schools and that is we keep, that’s maintained at the district level.  It’s not at the school site level.  We meet weekly with our reading coaches to provide support to them, training, and also to trouble-shoot issues that have come up in the schools.  When we look at tracking our RTI student data, we do that on many levels.  Instead of just looking at individual student data and how they’re progressing, we compare individual student data to our total district grade level data, our district target group for that grade level, say if the student is part of the ESL population, we look at the ESL population across the district.  We look at that grade level at the school, and we also look at that class at the school to see how is the student doing compared to those different groups to identify where is it that we need to put our resources or implement intervention differently.

It’s very important that we have district and school level support.  With our RTI tiers, each of our tiers minimally encompass student placement which can be undifferentiated classroom assignment to classroom assignment by educational need, and that can be fluid within the school.  That also includes the amount of instructional time that students might be placed in an intervention or provided additional support.  We look at our instructional materials that are used.  Students could be in the core program, they could be in a core program with supplementals, or they could be in an intervention program.  Some schools we know that, along with what Amanda said, some schools we have the intervention program as the core program depending on the student need of the school.

Then we also look at the instructional strategies that are used.  That includes group size for instruction with students, so that’s, each tier minimally is comprised of all of those and there can be variances based on student need within those.

We really have to work on developing conditions for success systemically within our districts.  I think that’s the way that we’re really going to achieve meaningful gains.  In our district we have been successful in increasing our graduation rate.  Our students have to pass the 10th grade reading assessment to earn their diploma in the State of Florida.  In the time that we’ve implemented these types of changes in our district, and this has been actually since 2005 with our middle and high schools, we have increased our success rate at passing the state reading assessment in the 10th grade the first time, the first try by students, from 35% success to 65% success.  (someone in background whistles)  And that’s been maintained.

So those are our measures for success, and we know that those things are working.  We have to continue to provide those types of supports, but the biggest thing that we have to know is that’s not easy work to do.  The changes that we’ve made in the instruction that we provide to students and how we work to provide that are things that were not familiar concepts for the majority of the secondary teachers that we’ve worked with, so it’s really the systemic support that’s provided; bottom line--has been the most important piece in our district.  (applause)


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