by Laurie Kimbrel, Ed.D.

Over the course of my career, I have blogged and written extensively about the need for all students to succeed at high levels. By now, most understand that success in an economy driven by technology, innovation and service will require both content knowledge as well as a set of underlying skills such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Both our own common sense and research tell us that our students must be prepared for learning beyond high school in college, job training and apprenticeship programs. But how do we ensure that all students are ready when they are only with us in schools for a few years? The answer lies in both effective classroom instruction as well as effective intervention.

We know that all students can learn, however, some students need more time and more support. In the past, many school systems waited for students to fail or fall far behind to intervene. Summer school was offered when students failed a course and the student needed to repeat the entire course regardless of content that had been previously mastered. Special education was sometimes offered as a last resort when frustrated staff didn’t know what else to do. In contrast, imagine a school system where student outcomes are clearly identified, where there is high quality instruction in every classroom and where TIMELY intervention is available for EVERY student at the first sign of a struggle. What if students didn’t have to wait for help until they had already failed?

The best intervention is prevention and so our most important work actually begins with a strong core instructional program in every classroom for every student. Approximately 80% of students who receive a well instructed, research-based curriculum should experience success as a result of initial instruction in the classroom.

In order to ensure that all students learn at high levels, it is also necessary to create intervention plans to assist students who need support.  Plans should have the following characteristics:

  • Tiered support – some students need a little help and some need a lot of help. Our interventions offer various levels of assistance based on the needs of the student.
  • Directive – interventions must be mandatory. We can’t claim that our mission is to ensure that all students learn at high levels and then allow our students to “choose” to fail.
  • Administered by trained professionals – systems must be in place so that the professionals with the most expertise in a given area are able to deliver intervention. This notion is based on a medical model. If you have the flu, you can see the physician’s assistant, but if you have cancer, you need the oncologist.
  • Targeted – intervention is very specific to the student and the standard in which he or she needs assistance. Using a reliable system of assessment in the classroom ensures that we identify specific areas of intervention.
  • Timely – effective intervention occurs promptly, not after an F grade has been given for the course. Also, interventions should only be as long as needed, a student should not have to languish in intervention past the point where it is helpful.

If you would like additional information on effective intervention:

An easy to read article –

“The Why Behind RtI” by Austin Buffum, Mike Mattos and Chris Weber


A great book –

“Simplifying Response to Intervention”

by Austin Guffu, Mike Mattos and Chris Weber





Read more

Although by now almost everyone is back to school, summer really isn’t quite over yet.  Summer is a time to add personal reading to our regular professional reading and we all have until at least Labor Day to finish up our summer books!

In anticipation of the Robert Redford movie “A Walk in the Woods”, I decided to go back and re-read the Bill Bryson classic about his trek on the Appalachian Trail.  This book was published in 1998 so if you read it when it came out, its been enough time that I encourage you to read it again to relive Bryson’s humorous and yet very informative narration of his hike.

I think the beauty of this book is that Bryson educates as well as entertains the reader.  Of course, I’m very amused by the characters he meets along the trail as well as the interaction between Bryson and his co-hiker and old friend Katz, but its the description of the history of the trail and the depth of description of the hiking experience that make it worth the read.   For those of us who don’t have the inclination to attempt a “thru-hike”, Bryson’s descriptions may be the next best thing.  In fact, his descriptions my persuade a day hike rather than a hike of the entire trail.

Perhaps there are also  leadership lessons in “A Walk in the Woods”.  Sometimes we have to take ourselves completely out of our element and immerse ourselves in something so completely different in order to gain an unparalleled level of self understanding.  Perhaps Bryson is also telling us that solitude is good for the heart, mind and soul.  Even on the days when Bryson and Katz hike “together” they are not usually walking at the same pace.  Finally, I wonder if a little self deprivation helps us to truly appreciate our blessings.  In our busy lives we can easily lose track of what is important.  What if I didn’t see my family for a few months?  I would surely appreciate them more after we were reunited. What if I had to eat what I could carry for a month?  I would absolutely appreciate the taste and convenience of a meal in even the most mediocre restaurant.

In the end, perhaps re-reading “A Walk in the Woods” was not only just a fun summer read, but also a leadership and personal lesson in appreciating some of the things that we so easily take for granted.  The movie comes out on September 2, so if you hurry up, you can still read before you see it!

Read more

Success is not the key to happiness.  

Happiness is the key to success.

If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.

Albert Schweitzer