I'm really excited to be back at school and gearing up for a new academic year. Yesterday's training on our new collaborative response model was timely as we approach a turning point in how we work with students and achieve success in our schools. I look forward to working with Kurtis Hewson and what he can facilitate as we begin this journey. What excites me more though, is the journey that each school will now be embarking on as we seek to implement a collaborative response models in each of our schools this year.
Kurtis mentioned that this is a process; a process that cannot be completed overnight. He was pretty clear that this is something that will take years to work out for each of our schools. The work we did yesterday afternoon, however, was a positive first step. Working in groups to determine what we're doing in the areas of Collaborative Team Meetings, Assessments and Pyramid of Interventions was helpful. As I wandered between groups, observing and asking questions, I realized something about how we currently function versus how we will need to function in the future. I think it will be critical that each of us come to a common understanding of what interventions, strategies and accommodations actually are before we can start developing our school-based pyramids of interventions.
The intent of this post is to provide some clarity on what each of the three are. Hopefully this will help bring us closer to a common understanding as principals will soon be taking each staff through exercises to create preliminary pyramids. So... without further adieu... here are my basic definitions of interventions, strategies and accommodations.
"An intervention is anything a school does, above and beyond what all students receive, that helps a child succeed in school" (Buffum, Mattos, Weber, 2012, p. 129).
An example of an intervention would be working with a student or small group of students who are struggling with reading fluency by having them participate in a read aloud activity with a teacher during a flex time that is built into the school schedule and not during a regularly scheduled language arts class.
Strategies are things that we do in the classroom during regular instruction that helps students in key areas of their learning.
An example would be having students read in groups during a classroom activity and having them work on fluency by taking turns reading a paragraph each as they read in their group. The classroom teacher might have three or four groups in class; and during the 15 minute activity, the teacher would circulate between the groups and listen to different students read in their groups, intervening to help as needed.
An accommodation is something that the school does to help students be successful in their learning, but not necessarily target the root source of the student's difficulty/difficulties in their learning.
An example would be a text-to-speech app on an iPad to help students who do not read still be able to participate in a learning activity in class. It helps them hear and understand the story or material being covered, but it does not get at or address the fact that the student is unable to read the text required for the learning activity.
As staffs begin working under the direction of their leadership teams to create pyramids of intervention at their schools, I suspect that we will all be pretty good at identifying accommodations that we have put in place for students. However, I think that we will struggle with and need to start having hard conversations about what strategies and interventions we actually have or need for our students. And as we ask those questions and consider those things, it will become apparent that we need to change how we use our assessment data to determine exactly what specific learning needs each of our students have so that we know what strategies and interventions to try.
I firmly believe that we are on the right path with the implementation of a collaborative response models at our schools. I look forward to this work and hopefully have a chance to help in any way I can. And if anyone who reads this has questions about the RTI process or things that we're doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.