A Middle School Principal’s Perspective: Scheduling for RTI

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    After putting together a framework for our RTI program and introducing it to the staff, my administrative team went about the task of tackling the most formidable piece of our plan: the schedule.  Since we began this initiative, I have had the opportunity to speak to numerous fellow administrators who are trying to get their own program up and running.  The most common topic for questions is “scheduling.”

    As I mentioned previously, our first year of implementation was going to focus on sixth grade.  Prior to this change, our school had operated on a schedule without using bells to indicate the start or finish of classes.  This turned out to be an important piece of the puzzle, as our new schedule was going to require certain grades to switch classes while others did not.  Actually, the year prior to beginning RTI, we had attempted to add instructional time to the day by taking a class period called “Tutorial” (which had been used for rehearsals, clubs and meetings) and combining it with the period immediately after it (1st period).  This new 80 minute class became known as the “Rotating Block” period.  Basically, each core subject class would get one day a week to hold instruction in a Block-styled class period.  In order to get the time that we wanted for RTI, we decided to take this period back from 6th grade and add an “Intervention” period, thus returning first period to a 45 minute class.

    This took us from what was essentially an eight period day in sixth grade to a nine period day.  Here is basically what the schedule for 6th grade looked like:

            Homeroom:  8:45-8:55
            Intervention: 8:55-9:25
            1st period:  9:25-10:10
            2nd period:  10:10-10:55
            3rd period:  10:55-11:40
            4th period:  11:40-12:25 (Related Arts)
            5th period:  12:25-1:00 (Lunch)
            6th period:  1:00-1:45 (Related Arts)
            7th period:  1:45-2:30
            8th period:  2:30-3:10

    When combined with the seventh and eighth grade schedules, it was really a work of art.  The 1,300 students in our school moved from one place to another based solely on the clocks in the classroom.  Since our population was so large, having the students move at separate times really helped ease some of the hallway congestion.

    Once we had a schedule in place, our next task was to determine the types of interventions that we would have room for and then find a way to offer them all at the same time.  Knowing that reducing the class size would be one of the keys to success, we looked to create as many sections as possible, offering as many different research-based programs as we could in order to meet the needs of our students.  (I will write more about what programs we chose in my next blog.)

    Fortunately, our district was able to procure grants in order to fund the hiring of six additional “Interventionists” to help us with implementation.  These teachers were hired on a part-time basis in order to provide the instruction during the morning class period and then help with data collection for a short time after their teaching was finished.  The hiring of these six professionals was a key component to the success of our program.

    We then took the entire pool of sixth grade core subject and learning support teachers, combined them with our entire reading department and the six interventionists to come up with the total number of sections that we could offer.  The next step was determining which teachers would teach at each tier and then who would teach each intervention within the tier.  Beginning with Tier 1, we used the sixth grade core subject teachers that were not language arts (science, math and social studies) teachers.  All of these professionals were certified in elementary education, so they had no trouble with a Tier 1 reading class focusing on vocabulary and comprehension.  Tier 2 was then divided between the language arts (LA) teachers and the interventionists.  Given their experience with various reading programs, the LA teachers were comfortable with some of the more intense interventions regarding fluency and comprehension.  Knowledge and training in such programs was a prerequisite for the interventionists when they were hired.  Tier 3 was reserved for our learning support teachers and reading specialists.  They all had some knowledge and experience with the decoding programs that would be necessary in order for the intervention to be effective.

    As was the case with all of the professionals involved, we were able to get the necessary training over the summer and at the start of the year for any staff member who would be teaching an intervention that was unfamiliar to them.  We soon learned that there were plenty of programs from which to choose.  The selection process was truly a learning experience.
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