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Response to Intervention at Pear Park Elementary School
By: Elaine Fletemeyer|Published: April 16, 2012
Topics: Behavior Supports, Data-based Decision Making, Implementation Planning and Evaluation, K-5, Scheduling
Elaine Fletemeyer is a Literacy Interventionist-Coach and RtI Coordinator at Pear Park Elementary School in District #51, Grand Junction, Colorado. A graduate of Concordia University, River Forest, IL, Elaine completed her undergraduate work in elementary education. She also earned her Master’s Degree in Special Education through the University of Colorado. In the state of Colorado, Elaine previously taught in private schools, a charter school (Edison Project—Roosevelt-Edison Charter School in Colorado Springs, CO), and in Public Schools in School District #11, Air Academy School District #20. You can e-mail Elaine at Elaine.Fletemeyer@d51schools.org.
Pear Park Elementary School is a K-5 Title 1 school and is part of Mesa County Valley School District #51 in Grand Junction, CO. For the 2011-2012 school year, there are 450 students enrolled. Being a Title I school, we have had up to 3 full-time literacy interventionists/reading specialists, six full-time paraprofessional reading instructional assistants, and one Title I Instructional Assistant who also helps with computer-based intervention programs and assists the RtI Coordinator with clerical work. In addition, we have had two full-time special education teachers, one full-time Speech Language Pathologist, an itinerant School Psychologist, and a full-time ELL-certified teacher. Due to budget cuts, staffing for the 2011-2012 school year changed dramatically. Our Intervention Team was especially impacted by the loss of 5 Paraprofessional Reading Instructional Assistant positions and two half-time Literacy Interventionist positions.
73% of Pear Park’s student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch. English is the majority language. 7% of the students receive ELL support, and about 10% of our population receives special education services. (This percentage includes Speech/Language only IEPs).
The state of Colorado began requiring a district plan for RtI implementation in the 2007–2008 school year, and it was during that same school year that Pear Park Elementary took its first steps toward RtI Implementation. During that first year (Pear Park’s second year as a new school building in District #51), we had an itinerant RtI Coordinator who helped us with the initial phases of planning and goal-setting for the future. It was a slow start with a Principal-appointed RtI Team, composed of teachers from various grade levels and several Interventionists and/or Specialists. We did develop an RtI Pyramid that year, and we began to collect some resources for our RtI/Intervention Library, however the number of students that were discussed during monthly problem-solving meetings was quite small in number. There was not yet a clear school-wide vision for our RtI program. In August of 2008, I assumed the role of RtI Coordinator along with my ongoing duties as a Literacy Interventionist.
One of the major contributors to Pear Park Elementary School’s success has been a strong commitment to Response to Intervention (RtI). RtI provides the venue for student-focused team collaboration, problem solving, and instructional planning and development. In spite of budget constraints, we have been able to use available resources and teachers’ strengths to our advantage. Our intervention program and our daily schedule are at the heart and core of student successes. An “Intervention/Options Block Schedule” also allows for necessary uninterrupted core instruction time. A considerable amount of intense, yet creative scheduling contributed to a successful daily routine that works for staff and students alike. Ongoing, consistent communication between teachers, interventionists and support personnel has provided the backdrop for successful blending of core curriculum with intervention programming and service delivery for students in all sectors of the RtI Pyramid.
Strong administrative support provides the needed leadership and foundation for positive involvement school wide. Staff and students are interacting with leadership on a continuous basis. An open door policy and a very-visible principal’s presence provide an encouraging setting for positive communication.
Our staff development sessions provide targeted training for areas of need. We have presented book studies, videos, and personalized trainings pertaining to principles developed by researchers and programs such as: Richard Allington, Fountas and Pinnell, Regie Routman, Daily 5, Reading Recovery, Six Traits of Writing, Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Approaches, and other local specialists. We aim to support teachers, whenever and wherever, answering their questions, “coming alongside” to assist and coach with ideas for supporting instructional approaches, data-use, and documentation.
Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) is incorporated on a daily basis in all facets of school activities (lunchroom, playground, hallways, bus areas, sidewalks, and all types of classrooms). Our mascot is a Panda and our slogan, “Panda PALS are polite, responsible, safe, learners,” is posted in every classroom. (PALS stands for Panda Pals Are Responsible Learners Safe) A school-wide, consistent rewards system is built into the fiber of our building. Students in every classroom earn the privilege of becoming a photographed “Panda PAL of the Week,” and everyone has the opportunity to earn “Panda PALS Notes” for positive performance behaviorally or academically. These notes can be traded for actual reward items at our Panda PALS store. Panda PALS recognition is noted throughout each day all around our campus.
Each grade level professional learning community (PLC) teaching team is asked to set goals for their students at the beginning of the year, and at the end of each quarter. Goal setting is inherent in the STAR progress monitoring programming and it is embedded into our RtI PLC conversations. In addition to the formal RtI meetings, the grade level PLC teams designate one planning period per week to problem-solve and discuss goals, strengths, weaknesses and current needs of students within their particular grade level.
It is the combination of all these elements that has contributed to our school’s positive day to day environment along with documented short-term and long-term academic growth.
Tips for RtI Success:
Progress to Date
The key elements of the current Pear Park RtI framework are rooted in a communication and problem-solving process that began in the fall of 2008. The following is a summary of progress made during the last 3 years:
Priorities were set for RtI Year 2, and they included forming an RtI Team (composed of the Principal, RtI Coordinator, one teacher from each grade level along with a Special Education Teacher, School Psychologist, Counselor, and several Interventionists). This Team met twice a month at the beginning of our school day and prior to students’ arrival (8-8:45AM). Primary RtI program elements for this school year included:
Student-focused meetings had a defined plan/agenda, priority was placed on shared input regarding the student of concern’s current status, strengths/needs, relevant data, and intervention plans. Notes were taken and shared for ongoing use or reference.
Core Components for this school year included:
All Core Components from the 2009-2010 school year were retained. Additional refinement occurred in the areas of:
For the last 2 school years (2009-2010 and 2010-2011) Pear Park Elementary has been the top performing Title I School within our School District. A strong commitment to providing every learner with the best available instructional support plan will continue to be our goal.
Due to cutbacks in support personnel for serving at-risk students, we have faced some new and difficult challenges during the 2011-2012 school year. We have continued with the intervention block scheduling; however we have had fewer interventionists and support staff. Thus, we have relied heavily on new and creative support, including broadened computer-based interventions; more coaching and co-teaching; and increased staff development in the area of supporting at-risk learners within the context of the regular classroom. All other core components have served us well, and are still being used.
We are also receiving both continued interest and ongoing affirmation at a district level as pertains to the success of our building’s RtI program! These accomplishments include:
In conclusion, here are a few words that were recently shared by our Principal, Cheri Taylor, in response to our recent Blue Ribbon Award nomination:
“Our significant gains came from analyzing data and using an RtI approach to determine the needs of all of our students and then change instruction to meet the needs of our students. We implemented a school wide RtI system in 2008, and that allowed us to assess, monitor and discuss each student individually. We then adjusted our core curriculum, as well as our Tier 2 interventions to better meet the needs of our students. As a building RtI team, we discuss data monthly, and we make adjustments for students according to each student’s needs. We ensure that all students are exposed to grade level core content and that they receive additional support when necessary. We also aligned our additional support (literacy/math interventions, ESL, Special Ed) with our core curriculum so that the students received repetition, practice, and support to master the grade level standards necessary to be successful. We organized our school day to better utilize our time, and we ensured that no student was pulled out during core instruction. We determined each staff member’s area of strength, and we partnered the staff member’s strengths with student needs. We believe that every child is every adult’s responsibility, and that we are each responsible for every child’s success. As a staff with shared vision, we changed our mindset to ‘Every Child, Every Minute, Every Day, Rigorous Learning.’”