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In an economy driven by technology, innovation and service, future success for our students will require both content knowledge as well as a set of underlying skills such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Both common sense and research tell us that our students must be prepared for learning beyond high school whether it is in college, job training and apprenticeship programs. But how do we ensure that all students who enter high schools are ready for their future when they are only there fo four short 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 or gave up and the student then was required to repeat the entire course regardless of content that had been previously mastered. Special education was sometimes offered as a last resort when staff had tried everything they could think of to help and simply didn’t know what else to do. These sorts of extreme measures are important for many students and absolutely necessary at times, but for many others success is possible if we intervene quickly and efficiently.
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? What if students didn’t need to repeat an entire course, but rather just the portions that they had yet to master? Wouldn’t this be a more efficient and effective system for students, parents and teachers?
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 taught, research-based curriculum should experience success as a result of instruction in the classroom. Quite simply, this is the reason that districts should take the time to have teachers collaboratively create a common core aligned curriculum along with assessments methods to measure student growth and achievement. Schools should also focus on increasing the quality of classroom instruction and ensuring that research based and proven methodologies are utilized.
The next step to ensure that all students learn at high levels is to create intervention plans to assist students who need more time or support to reach proficiency on skills and content. Well-constructed intervention plans have the following characteristics:
- Tiered support – some students need a little help and some need a lot of help. Interventions should 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 AusitnBuffum, Mike Mattos and Chris Weber-click HERE