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Loring Elementary: Minneapolis Public Schools

By: Douglas Marston, Ph.D.Published: October 24, 2008
Topics: Data-based Decision Making, K-5, Literacy, Scheduling, Tiered Instruction


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Douglas Marston is the co-principal investigator of an OSEP sponsored demonstration grant using progress monitoring to deliver an RTI model.  Loring School is one of the elementary schools using this model.


Loring Elementary is a K–5 school in the Minneapolis public school district. Loring has an enrollment of 323 students of which 80% live in poverty. Students of color make up 75% of the school population, 21% are English language learners (ELL), and 8% receive special education services.


What did you do?


Loring implements a decision-making approach based on data to provide a differentiated instruction model that serves the needs of all students. Loring’s use of this model began initially with the district’s adoption of the Problem-Solving Model, a form of response to intervention (RTI), in the mid 1990s. Loring further developed its implementation of RTI through its participation as a Reading First school and continued this direction as a demonstration site for progress monitoring.  All students receive Tier 1 or core instruction, which includes 60 minutes of whole class instruction. Activities during core instruction include teacher read alouds, comprehension skill development, summarization skills, study skills, word attack, writing, and spelling. Students also receive differentiated reading instruction in smaller groups for an additional 60 minutes.  These groups are formed during the first week of the academic year when all students participate in the fall screening with curriculum-based measures (CBM) of reading that are correlated with the State’s accountability test in reading, the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA). Students read three grade-level passages, and the median number of words read correctly is calculated for the fall, and then again in the winter and spring. Those students who are on track to be proficient on the MCA continue core instructional activities that are at grade level or above. Those students whose performance places them in the yellow zone (partially proficient) or red zone (no mastery) receive more intensive Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions. These smaller instructional groups focus on student needs in the areas of fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and, if necessary, alphabetic understanding and phonemic awareness.  Targeted interventions at Loring include Soar to Success, Direct Instruction, Early Reading Intervention, and Read Naturally. 


The progress of students receiving Tier 2 or 3 interventions is monitored on a weekly basis.  Students read district created CBM passages at their instructional level, and the number of words read correctly is entered into the district’s student database so that the results may be graphed and printed. The weekly progress data and the fall, winter, and spring screening data is then reviewed at monthly student data meetings by grade-level teams composed of school staff. The participants in the monthly student meetings include general education, ELL, Title 1, and special education teachers; the program facilitator; and the principal. The grade-level team meets for 90 minutes and evaluates pupil growth and response to core and targeted interventions. Those students who are not responding to  small group intervention are moved into another instructional group.


What challenges did you face? 


A major challenge is creating a budget, staff, and schedule that all align to the goal of accelerating achievement in reading. Implementing an uninterrupted literacy block that contains both core and targeted interventions is a priority that can only be realized with an appropriate budget and a schedule based on student instructional needs.  A second challenge for Loring was that teachers needed training on how to monitor student progress and make judgments about whether students are responding to targeted interventions. Once this was accomplished, through Reading First participation, the school had to provide differentiated professional development for experienced and new staff.  New staff who join the Loring faculty need a very different professional development plan. 


What was the outcome of your effort?


The focus on data-based decision-making at Loring has resulted in a staff that is well versed in reading research, analysis of data, assessments, and reading interventions.  An analysis of student movement between Tiers 1, 2, and 3 of the RTI model showed that 86 students out of 273 (31.5%) moved up or down a tier during the school year. Student achievement outcomes have been positive. Loring has shown adequate yearly progress (AYP) in reading for the entire school and the eight subgroups analyzed for No Child Left Behind. In some cases the reading progress at Loring was greater than district and State gains.


What advice would you give others?


Using an RTI approach to meet the needs of all students takes a building-wide commitment and leadership from the principal.  The primary focus of monthly meetings is data and interventions, not sharing anecdotes and history. It is important to have a strong facilitator and administrative support. District office involvement also makes the work easier and gives recognition to the hard work of the teaching staff. 


It is not always necessary to wait for the next monthly meeting to make a change if a student shows significant growth or decline, but be sure the change is based on evidence. When there are difficult instructional placement decisions to make, use the data to support the decision. 

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