Sunday, March 22, 2009

RTI Summit---my notes

Wisconsin held a 2 day Summit for Response to Intervention. There were over 1,000 people in attendance. It was an incredible conference with many sessions and 2 fantastic keynote speakers. I can't wait until the videos and resource links are up from the conference.
Because there were so many different sessions and powerpoint packets I came back with, I had to comb through the resources and compile what notes were the most important for me and then my "ahas!" from the conference.
If you don't know anything about RtI, then this post will not help you. Some of it may not even make sense to those that do know about RtI, but like I said, it's the notes from 2 days that were the most important to me.

Notes from RtI Summit
-The concept of RtI is quite simple…doing RtI well is quite complex. RtI is NOT a product you can buy, you must develop it as a school. We need to proceed thoughtfully and carefully. We cannot just put together an RtI plan over the summer. 3 Phases of Building an RtI System: 1. Shared Vision and Purpose building (not necessarily consensus, because you’ll never have consensus, but information building at the least) 2. Infrastructure building 3. Implementation
-RtI is NOT a special ed initiative, it is a general ed initiative. RtI needs to be applied to ALL kids.
-We always know our weaknesses better than our strengths. This goes for how we know students as well. We need to know our students strengths. RtI should be a strengths based model, because you never know what kids are truly capable of! (multiple intelligences, different learning styles)
-We can’t modify the students, we have to modify the system. When a student doesn’t learn the way we teach, we need to teach the way they learn.”
-If they are not making progress, then we have not found the right method yet.
-“Differentiation is not a checklist of strategies, but a philosophical approach to teaching all students.”~Carol Ann Tomlinson
-If your data does not show that there is strong universal instruction, then tier 2 and 3 interventions are not appropriate!
-In God we trust. Everyone else bring your data!
-One school that presented reported that according to their performance data, they could identify when a student was placed in special education!! Just because a student qualifies for special ed services does NOT mean we lower our expectations!
-Marie Clay on Progress Monitoring: “If a child is a struggling reader or writer, the conclusion must be that we have not yet discovered the way to help him learn. The intent is not to find an excuse for the lack of progress, or a label to explain the child’s difficulty, or to state what was wrong with the child’s past experience at home or at school. The intent is to find a way to get around the road block and re-establish accelerated learning.
-An Intervention is defined as the systematic use of a technique, program or practice designed to improve learning or performance in specific areas of student need. An intervention must be measurable (it is not just keeping a student in from recess to work on homework)
-Richard Allington on Interventions: Should be implemented in small groups of 2-3. Needs to be intensive and delivered by experts which can and should include classroom teachers. Should expand their instructional reading time. Kids need to read a lot!
-Why a Phonemic Awareness intervention? “children who lack phonemic awareness have a difficult time developing understanding of letter-sound relationships as well as learning to spell (Griffith, 1991; Juel, Griffith, & Gough, 1986). Since Juel’s studies, additional evidence has been produced that poor phonemic awareness at 4-6 years of age is predictive of reading difficulties throughout the elementary years.

-Teacher Expertise Findings:
*Teacher expertise is the most important factor in improving children’s learning (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1999)
*Teachers whose descriptions of students’ literacy development are brief are more likely to refer children for LD evaluation than are teachers whose descriptions are more detailed (Broikou, 1992).
*Teachers favoring whole class instruction refer more children for LD evaluations than teachers who use a range of grouping structures (Drame, 2002).
*Teachers who use small group instruction are generally more effective than those who do not (Taylor et al., 2002)
*Scanlon (2008) found teachers with different levels of expertise reduced the number of at risk kids in kindergarten by anywhere from 50% to 0 (or less).
*When intervention efforts are not fully successful, failures are differentially distributed across teachers and schools (Scanlon; Phillips & Smith, 1997)
*“No school with mediocre classroom instruction ever became effective just by adding a high quality remedial or resource room program. We have added more instructional aides, more specialist teachers, and more computers and software programs, while ignoring powerful evidence on the importance of high quality classroom teaching.” (Allington & Johnston, 2000)
*“The proportion of the school day allotted to whole-class instruction is a predictor of a school’s academic achievement. The more whole-class teaching offered, the lower the academic achievement in that school.” (Allington, 2009)
*“Even the best professional development may fail to create meaningful and lasting changes in teaching and learning-unless teachers engage in ongoing professional dialogue to develop a reflective school community.”

-Parent involvement is KEY!
-“When you think you’re done…you’ve just begun!”

My thoughts/reflections/Ahas!
-We must continue to build a culture of collaboration in our school. This is an area in our school that is improving, but still could use improvement. I can’t figure out why (there’s a LOT of history at my school), but teachers just don’t fully trust each other. There are some grade levels that work really well together, but others that don’t and some teachers that do NOT like it if someone else “takes” their idea or lesson plan.
-We have the 90 minute uninterrupted reading blocks, but we have students currently receiving reading intervention during this time. If students are pulled out of the classroom, it should be a “double-dose” to expand their instructional reading time. Yes, this means during science or social studies (that can’t read the texts that are above grade level anyhow).
-Our staff needs training/support in differentiating for reading and math. This especially includes matching texts to readers.
-I started out the year with structured time and a format for grade-level collaboration, but it isn’t going as effectively as I had planned. Despite weekly planning forms to guide their discussion (what do we want them to learn, how do we know when they’ve learned it, what do we do when they don’t learn/do learn?) it’s not working. We don’t have the curriculum/assessments in place to truly do this well, or the leadership/collaboration amongst teams for this discussion. So I’m considering book studies focusing on reading/differentiation as a method to increase staff development and build professional dialogue amongst teams (would let grade levels select the books).
-I want to learn more about The Daily Five
-We need staff development (staff meeting time) just to dialogue on the common terms so everyone is on the same page (accomodations, modifications, differentiation, collaboration, intervention)
-I need to change our Student Intervention Team process. Currently, it is run by the psychologist and seems to be seen as just a hoop for teachers to jump through to have a student tested for special education.

WI DPI RtI Self-Assessment for Schools and Districts:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My introductory blog...first blog ever!

Hello world!

I am a new principal in an elementary school in Wisconsin. My experience before this has included teaching at the elementary levels (special education for 1-5th, 3rd grade and 4th grades), instructional coach for one year, and a year as a middle school assistant principal. This year has been quite a change for me, not just as a first year principal, but also having moved from working in downtown Phoenix, AZ now in rural Wisconsin. I had every intention of journaling throughout the year for my own professional reflection, however, with everything that goes on in this crazy position, I have only 3 journal entries. I have decided to start a blog for my own professional reflection with the hopes of gaining feedback from other professionals in the field. Being a principal can be a lonely job, especially when you're in a small district and don't have many other principals to dialogue with.

I'm a bit nervous at putting myself "out there" like this, but I'll start with the warning that I don't want this to be time consuming for myself so I will not be spending massive amounts of time writing it as professional will just be my reflective blog.