It All Comes Down to Now!

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    It is June. All of the hard work that was started in September is winding down and the school year is coming to a close. Now it is time to begin looking at the results. As a school, you are checking to see if the professional development plan was fully implemented. You are wondering if that schedule implemented in September needs to be re-adjusted for the next school year, and you are checking to see if the RTI framework you created had the educational and instructional impact that you had predicted when you started the process at the beginning of the school year. You hope the core program, Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions had an educational impact on the students. Most importantly, you are wondering how all that hard work has impacted learning and improved student assessment scores.

    The year has had high mountains and low valleys. A lot of talk has occurred over the year, and some feel good about what has occurred, while others are not so sure. While the verdict concerning the effect of the RTI implementation in your school on the state assessment is in limbo while you wait for the return of those state scores, you pay attention to the conversations of your peers. There has been talk in the school throughout the school year about RTI implementation, and all of the professionals in your school have a pretty good notion of how "everyone feels" about what you have accomplished this year. But again…and more importantly, you are waiting in trepidation for the "test scores." This is high pressure stuff!

    Like it or not, today’s educational environment asks us to use test scores to measure a school’s effectiveness. At this time of the year you are wondering how students have done or will do on the state assessments. The state assessments will tell you how well the school has done as a whole, how well sub-groups have performed, and if you made the grade on your AYP scores.

    Please be reminded that the state assessment is not the crowning achievement. No doubt, RTI implementation in your school will have a positive impact on the overall achievement of the students in your school.  Because we are sometimes threatened by high stakes assessments, we need to keep in mind that if we are implementing RTI, we are providing the best possible instruction to our students. We must also take notice that not all students in your school will show the gains on the state assessment that they may be demonstrating on the RTI assessments used in your school.  If this is the first year of implementation, stick with it! Those students will show growth over time. If you are in your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th year of implementation and some students are not getting the gains you had hoped for, sit down and have those hard conversations that will allow you to address whatever is getting in your way of success regarding these students.

    Take the time in your literacy teams to look at individual students. Standardized test scores are important. But, there is nothing more powerful than the success that you have with every individual student in your school. To me, the RTI assessment scores generated in May have much more meaning than a cold, hard standardized assessment score. The screening, progress monitoring, and diagnostic assessments are the immediate feedback and the truth of our effort that no standardized test can give us. The difference of a standardized test score and the assessments used during the school year is like comparing the difference of watching a baseball game and playing in one. While watching a game can be exciting and fun, I really don't have much of an impact on the outcome. When I play the game, I have a direct impact on the outcome, and how well I play the game and the energy I bring will determine if I am successful or not. I am not saying that I don't have an impact on the state assessment. I am just saying that the emotion and immediate impact that I get from being immersed in the RTI process can not be compared to the state test.

    As you close the school year, ask yourself "should we put more stock in the state assessment, or should we put more stock in the immediate feedback we get for each and every child in our school?" To me, as I live the process of assessment and instruction, assessment and instruction on a daily basis, the choice is very simple.

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