George Lucas Educational Foundation

Schools That Work | Practice

Meyer Elementary School

Grades 1-4 | Lexington, MI

Response to Intervention: Meeting Students at Their Learning Ability

Meyer Elementary School's Response to Intervention practice has contributed to their ranking in the top five percent of all Michigan schools.
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Response to Intervention: Collaborating to Target Instruction (Transcript)

Teacher: It’s not an “s”. It sounds like it. What does it sound like?

Student: “C”?

Teacher: There you go.

Donna Barrier: The way we deliver RTI has everything to do with the end results that we’ve seen for student achievement. Today there is a small discrepancy between our highest achieving students and our lowest achieving students.

Beth Rickerman: Our overall vision and mission would be for every child to experience success at their level, whatever that level may be.

Amanda Kuhlman: RTI is “response to intervention”, it’s making sure that every child receives the support that he or she needs at any given time and that might change weekly.

Mary Krenke: It’s a team atmosphere and over these past years with the RTI the walls have come down, we’re all in it together.

Teacher: I could take some of your kids to rea-- just for the “Read Naturally” part if your groups are too big, you know?

Donna Barrier: Through the years we moved from being segmented individual classrooms to what you see today. Everything is done by the grade-level team.

Teacher: Yes.

Donna Barrier: When we first started moving students about in the building some parents had a few questions, “You mean, my child won’t be in one classroom all day?” No, we’re going to try to provide more targeted instruction working with them in small groups.

Teacher: The rest of my friends are gonna join me. Grab a stool and a pencil. Take a look at the first problem.

Mary Krenke: The difference is between the tiers, tier one, tier two, and tier three is tier one is the general population, universal instruction.

Mary Krenke: The snowman’s nose is a carrot!

Students: The snowman’s nose is a carrot!

Mary Krenke: What word should we underline?

Students: Carrot.

Mary Krenke: Carrot.

Amanda Kuhlman: Tier two is when a student is not seeing their potential. They are receiving a small group in addition to the tier one-- so outside of my classroom or with me at a different time of the day.

Melanie Lyons: They’re always in a small group, usually no bigger than six, with a teacher, with a paraprofessional.

Dara Dutcher: Using an intervention, using the technology.

Amanda Kuhlman: Oh, this one looks cool.

Dara Dutcher: Tier three is even further intervention. I pull them a separate time during the day to give them an extra push of instruction.

Melanie Lyons: That is with groups from one, two, maybe three and they get that about three to four times a week.

Student: Our b- buried--

Teacher: Very good, Norman.

Student: --deep inside the earth.

Brooklyn: Instead of having to have one teacher the whole time, then I get to go to different teachers and experience, like, new classrooms. It was kinda hard to learn my schedule in the first week, but in the second week I got it down.

Dara Dutcher: Okay, if you are one of Mrs. Rickerman’s friends you need to grab your Chromes, head on out to guided math.

Donna Barrier: The students are very proud of what they do. They feel empowered to move from teacher to teacher. They feel in charge of their day.

Heather: My oldest child struggles in reading, so he goes with a group of students that are like himself. So he’s not stuck in one classroom that has twenty-two kids with different levels. So I think he’s gonna get some individual attention in those areas and he doesn’t have to feel like he’s out of place because he’s not at the top.

Amanda Kuhlman: You know, if you see a child who is completely lost in a general ed classroom all day long that wears on a kid emotionally, socially, and academically, obviously, and with the RTI program, they’re receiving support that’s planned for them.

Dara Dutcher: The small group I think is helping, ‘cause he feels--

Teacher: Confident?

Dara Dutcher: He feels confident.

Teacher: Yeah.

Teacher: Right. Less threatening, too.

Dara Dutcher: It is less threatening.

Teacher: In class he’s lost. He’s just not--

Teacher: All right. So if you look at our sheets that we have that show where they’re at, is there anybody that we need to adjust?

Dara Dutcher: We do have to meet a lot grade-level-wise. We have to share a lot of information.

Mary Krenke: Sitting down and talking about our students that we are concerned about, they’re tier two, they’re tier three. What can we do? ‘Cause ultimately that is our goal is to get them back on tier one.

Amanda Kuhlman: You know, every three weeks or so we might have a group of changes.

Teacher: My A.H. is at a ten and I’m thinking we might want to bump him to tier three.

Teacher: Okay.

Teacher: Our data is consistently showing that they’re making progress.

Teacher: The other person that’s in your room, Rachel, is J.C.

Teacher: He is reading like crazy.

Teacher: No!

Teacher: Yes!

Teacher: Right before Christmas break maybe moving him back to tier one and see what he can do. That’s awesome.

Donna Barrier: Over the years our special education numbers have greatly diminished due to our RTI. Today, we only have about four percent of our student population that receives special education services.

Melanie Lyons: Excellent.

Teacher: You know, at the end of the year our students really make gains when looking at reading tests.

Teacher: This type of programming works.

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Response to Intervention: Providing Targeted Instruction

Response to Intervention (RTI) allows Meyer Elementary School teachers to assess how their students are doing weekly -- even daily -- to better support their needs and growth. Meyer Elementary uses RTI to provide targeted instruction and support to meet students at their learning ability.

"The way we deliver RTI has everything to do with the end results we've seen with student achievement," states Donna Barrier, Meyer Elementary's principal. "There is a small discrepancy between our highest-achieving students and our lowest-achieving students."

How It's Done

Meet Your Students' Needs

"RTI, which is Response to Intervention, just means that we look at where students are struggling," explains Donna Barrier, Meyer's principal. "We try to figure out what we need to do to meet that need, whether it is in reading, writing, or math. In the 2012-2013 school year, for the demographic profile of our school, our students would be expected to be at about the 47th percentile in the top-to-bottom ranking of all schools in the state of Michigan. We actually performed at the 94th percentile, and that has been pretty much what the state has seen from Meyer Elementary School for the past four years."

Set Up Tier Instruction

"If you see a child who is completely lost in a general ed classroom, all day long," says Amanda Kuhlman, a Meyer Elementary second-grade teacher, "that wears on a kid socially, emotionally, and academically, and with the RTI program, they're receiving support that's planned for them."

RTI consists of a three-tiered structure:

Tier One: Tier one is universal instruction. Every student receives this level of instruction.

Tier Two: Students who need additional support (for example, in reading accuracy, fluency, or comprehension) work in small groups of four to six students. Here they'll practice additional activities focused on their needs, giving them more exposure to develop those skills.

Tier Three: Students who need even more support go to Tier Three, which is either one-on-one instruction with the teacher, or working in small groups of two to three students.

Tiers Two and Three students are monitored for progress about every two weeks. "Ongoing assessing is happening all the time, and students are being scooted from one group to the other, up, down, however they need to be," says Barrier.

Make Your Students Feel Comfortable

"Learning is very personal to children," explains Barrier, "and when they’re there in close proximity to their teacher, the teacher has a calm voice. It’s conversational. They’re more apt to be at ease."

When students are learning among two to six other students, it creates a more relaxed environment than whole-class learning. A student who feels comfortable is more likely to ask questions, speak up, and elaborate on his or her thoughts.

Here are practices that Meyer teachers do to make their kids feel comfortable:

  • They use a calm and conversational voice.
  • They model skills and thinking processes aloud, daily.
  • They give their students affirming and sustaining feedback.
  • They make the learning and classroom expectations known to their students.

Creating common experiences that continue from class to class and from grade to grade -- such as the process in the guided instructional groups that stem from RTI -- also helps foster comfort for their students. Having the familiarity of that process in different environments and grades helps students to feel comfortable as they work in different rooms throughout the school year and as they continue on to the following grade levels.

Adopt Grade-Level Teaching

At Meyer, they use grade-level teaching to make tier instruction seamless. In grade-level teaching, teachers share all of the students, which allows for small-group instruction in reading, writing, and math in Tier One.

"When we are practicing our tiered instruction, it's easier because of the way that we deliver our core instruction," reflects Barrier. "Our tiers happen naturally. You might not necessarily realize that students are getting additional support because of the movement in the room."

Meyer teachers plan together for the whole grade. They build formative assessments, design rubrics for writing, and decide on science projects together.

"We do that together with everybody in mind," shares Barrier, "and that is our ongoing focus. We teach the collective group and share that ownership."

Create Teacher Planning Meetings

One reason that Meyer's RTI program works well is because teachers are able to plan together.

  • They meet once a week for a grade-level professional learning community.
  • They meet for 40 minutes.
  • During their meeting, a guidance counselor, Barrier, or another staff member is with the students.

"We’re doing other appropriate activities that support character education, or sometimes it’s content from the classroom," explains Barrier.

In their agenda, they discuss:

  • Student progress
  • Recent data they've collected
  • What they think they'll need to cover based on their district-level pacing guide

"It’s looking at what they’ve already done, the data they’ve gotten, and where they still need to go," says Barrier.

Check Your Students' Understanding

The great thing about Tier One, Two, and Three groups is that the teacher is with the students as they learn and is able to see if they really do understand the content.

"The teacher needs to see that in the moment, not later when it’s time to test," stresses Barrier. "You need to see it, and you need to know it right then. We use common formative assessments at each grade level to gauge progress."

Decide Which Teachers Will Teach Which Tiers

When deciding which teachers will teach Tiers One, Two, and Three, Barrier and the teachers consider:

  • What are students' scores?
  • How are they performing in the classroom?

After analyzing the students, Barrier reviews the teachers' strengths and teaching styles to decide who will teach which tier. However, this isn't a fixed designation. Teachers switch from tier to tier so that all of them have the opportunity to work at each level and gain insight from every student.

"At the trimester, when we’re doing benchmark assessing tends to be when we do our regrouping," says Barrier, "and at that time, a teacher who had been working with struggling students may begin working with the students who are in the middle. Sometimes they’ve gone from working with the students who are struggling most to those struggling the least. That’s a discussion that I have with the teachers at that time."

Be OK With Change

When practicing RTI, your program will change constantly to fit the needs of your students.

"Our RTI program does not look the same necessarily from the beginning of the year to the end," reflects Barrier. "That’s the beauty of it. You really have to go by what your students need. You have to be on the same page with your teachers. We have to really look at where we are, look at what we need, and figure out a way to get there. It is a fluid thing."

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Graham Charles's picture

The name bugs me: like so much ed jargon, it's nonsensical. On the surface, RTI would seem to be both a "response" and an "intervention." Does the name imply "from response to intervention?" Or are we, as it rather appears, responding to an intervention?

Jeff Dahl's picture

Mr Charles,
I am no expert, but my understanding of RTI has always been that we (the teachers/interventionists) are extremely interested in the student's response to a given intervention. If Jeff is struggling with fluency, we will attempt to remedy that through intervention, but further we monitor performance to assure positive response (improvement) or a new intervention will be applied until positive response is observed.

judyd123's picture

RTI is the same whatever the name. If RTI is done right it is very beneficial to students.

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