Now that we are completing STAR testing as the universal screening tool for RTI at our schools, we are starting to have to look at how students are doing, how well we interpret the student testing data and how well we know our students and their individual learning needs. We also need to decide on diagnostic tools and how we are going to use these tools. This decision rests with the principals in each of the schools. They will work with their staffs to determine what will work best for them at each of the schools.
Based on our common understanding at central office, however, additional diagnostic testing (beyond STAR testing) is to be used ONLY when teachers do not have the information they need to know what the specific learning needs are for a student. If used correctly, STAR testing and reports will provide teachers with plenty of information to help understand where students' strengths and weaknesses are. Combined with the professional judgement of teachers, this is usually enough to know what students need and what interventions might be appropriate when it comes to interventions and intervention time at the school level.
For example, if a school chooses to use Fountas & Pinnell as a diagnostic tool for literacy, teachers would only use this tool when the STAR data and their classroom experience DOES NOT provide enough understanding in terms of what a student's learning needs, deficiencies or needed interventions are.
In saying this, teachers should only be using diagnostic tools AS NEEDED. This means that not all students will be tested using diagnostic tools. It means that there might only be a few of students in each class that might need a diagnostic assessment. By using diagnostic tools in this way, it puts the judgment in the hands of the experts - the professionals who know their kids - the teachers.
So... if a school decides to use a diagnostic tool, such as Fountas & Pinnell for literacy, they will likely use it as a Tier II Intervention in their pyramid and there will a designated teacher that could be offering that as an intervention tool during intervention time.
That said, if teachers are not confident in their professional judgement on making guided reading groups or other classroom arrangements, they can choose to use tools like Fountas & Pinnell, Reading A to Z, or any other tool that can help them with those determinations. Please note, however, that this would NOT be a diagnostic tool as it is outlined and/or used in RTI.
If anyone who reads this has questions or concerns about how to use diagnostic tools and how they fit with RTI, please do not hesitate to contact me or anyone else on the learning team. We would be happy to help with RTI and its implementation.