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RTI Implementation at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School
By: Lori Smith|Published: February 8, 2012
Topics: Data-based Decision Making, Implementation Planning and Evaluation, Middle School, Professional Development, Progress Monitoring
We at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School (CMJH) began learning about the components of RtI in 2005 and attended several trainings to discover more about them. As the new principal of CMJH, I felt the timing to start making a paradigm shift in the way we addressed individual student needs was appropriate. Our initial step was to evaluate the current practices and processes we had in place to address individual student needs. We created a core problem-solving team that consisted of our two counselors, two administrators, and our two special education teachers. We compared our processes and interventions to those recommended in the research. We found that very little was offered to address the various academic and behavioral struggles frequently observed with our students. For example, we considered retention as an intervention for students that failed their academic coursework. As we continued our RtI research and discussion, we soon learned how few of our practices were research-based interventions.
Over the next several years, we identified the greatest areas of need for our students based on our student data. We focused on research-based, behavioral, and academic interventions and created them as alternatives to electives courses. Therefore, if a student was below grade-level in reading, he/she would be placed into a remediated reading course instead of one of his/her selected electives. We would notify parents through letter or phone call of the change in schedule. Our approach was to place students in needed courses rather than give it as an option to parents. Very few parents disagreed with the placement, however, if they did, their request would be honored. This practice is still used today as we determine and assign interventions for students.
In order to create a school-wide system of intervention, progress monitoring, and assessment, we needed to have the support of all staff. To address this difficult task, the core problem-solving team decided that all staff should be required to participate and learn about RtI. Therefore, we created a staff cycle/schedule to ensure that all staff members served at monthly problem-solving team meetings and learned about the purpose of our processes of intervention for students. In this way, staff has remained informed as our processes and programs related to RtI have evolved. They also now apply and research interventions for their own individual classrooms to ensure that the majority of students (Tier 1) can benefit from best instructional practices. Additionally, they have come to understand the importance of Tier 2/Tier 3 interventions when students do not benefit from general (Tier 1) instruction. An appreciation for smaller group direct instruction is evident among staff, even though it has caused other class sizes to increase. Another result of regular staff participation in RtI and problem-solving team meetings has been an increased appreciation and drive to implement best practice in the classroom, which, as a result, has further reduced the number of students needing Tier 2 or Tier 3.
Of all aspects of the aspects of RtI implementation, efficient progress monitoring processes have been the most difficult to implement. Because there are a multitude of teachers involved with each student the secondary level, efficiency in progress monitoring is critical. In addition, after much evaluation and refinement over the past 6 years, classroom teachers utilize several progress monitoring tools. These tools are differentiated not only by content area but also by individual student needs. However, as with interventions, teachers felt they needed to improve their instructional knowledge related to progress monitoring or formative assessment for Tier 1. For the past year, we have used our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) as learning teams for professional development related to formative assessment practices. As a direct result, teachers are more empowered to provide the problem-solving team with monthly data for individual students as it pertains to achievement in each content area. Teachers can provide specific information related to mastery of learning targets. Furthermore, during professional development this year, teachers will learn how to include students within formative assessment practices to increase their investment in learning. Other practices used for progress monitoring include utilizing technology tools to assess several elements of reading, math, and writing. We continue to evaluate and assess these protocols for their effectiveness regularly.
On-going assessment and review of processes and protocols is the key to success! Using school-wide student data has assisted us in determining which, if any, interventions or practices related to RtI are the most effective. Take a few risks with your master schedule, instructional practices, and RtI processes to learn what works best in your school environment. It is not possible to take another school’s RtI process and make them yours, however, there may be a few practices you can try to implement that will compliment your school’s needs. Stay with it, use data to drive your decision-making, and involve as many school staff as possible as you initiate RtI in your school.
More information related to RtI practices and protocols used at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School can be found in the following resources:
Johnson, E., Smith, L., and Harris, M. (2009). How RtI works in secondary schools. Corwin Press.
Visit the RTI Resources section of the CMJH website to see school-wide longitudinal data and outcomes related to RtI.