Is the Tier 1 in your RTI (Response to Intervention) Framework meeting the needs of 75-85 % of your students? How do you know? What does your tier 1 look like? These questions are answers to the possible issues that schools are facing in the high numbers of students who are receiving Tier 2 instruction.
As educators, we are always looking for programs, resources, and personnel to remediate and provide interventions at the Tier 2 level. But have we spent enough time reviewing, analyzing and ensuring that our Tier 1 is healthy and thriving?
Principals, teachers and Child Study Team personnel are struggling over the increasing number of students who require Tier 2 instruction in math, language arts and behavior management. “They just are not getting it. It’s too hard for them. They need small group instruction. They need to be taught in a different way.” These are a few of the remarks we hear from our general education teachers when they bring their students to the I&RS (Intervention and Referral Services) in the hopes of having their students initiate the identification process for special education or at least leave the classroom for basic skills support.
This is not the solution. It’s not possible that forty percent or more of our students require Tier 2 or Tier 3 instruction regardless of demographics, socio-economics and other reasons. It’s about the core instruction.
The core instruction at Tier 1 is the foundation for students to learn and thrive. The core instructional program has clear indicators of success in order for it to be a sound and viable program that meets the needs of 75-85 % of its students.
The Tier 1 Core Instruction for Language Arts must include:
- The Core instructional Program is researched based, each skill and concept is aligned to the state standards. Materials are aligned to state standards. Teachers are trained in the content standards and how to develop lessons that reflect the content standards.
- Skills and concepts are taught in a variety of ways using the UDL (Universal Design for Learning), approach to teaching.
- Teaching is differentiated and conducted in whole, small and individual settings.
- Differentiation of instruction should be happening daily in the general education classroom. One way to differentiate is to confer routinely with students and provide formative and specific feedback coupled with targeted strategies that are clear and step-by-step with modeling.
- The state mandated daily time allotment is kept sacred and should not be interrupted by other programs, events and activities. In New Jersey, a minimum of 90 minutes is dedicated to reading and writing with no interruptions. Avoid scheduling assemblies and other programs during language arts and mathematics blocks.
- Universal screening assessments are administered 3-4 times and assess the skills and standards based on the time of year. For example, a universal screener in grade 1 September is going to be different in December and again in May.
- Progress monitoring assessments are also aligned to the skills and standards and are used to monitor progress. Let’s monitor progress in a timely manner, every one to three weeks depending on the skill being remediated, not once every six weeks. How can a student possibly make gains if we aren’t consistently checking in to see if they are learning what we are teaching them in a small group, differentiated setting once every six weeks?
- Professional development is provided in a systemic, consistent manner to ensure teachers have the tools, strategies and resources to provide high quality instruction.
- Collaboration among teachers is crucial. Consistency in the teaching staff is visible when teachers collaborate in lesson planning and share best practices with one another. This requires ensuring that master scheduling allocates times throughout the week for teachers to meet and collaborate on lesson planning, data decision making and assessment analysis.
- The core instructional program provides activities to support students who fall behind the benchmarks of the core and activities to enrich students who exceed benchmarks.
When the above criteria are implemented, reviewed, monitored and discussed during grade level, data team and/or RTI meetings, then and only then can a discussion about Tier 2 interventions begin to take place.
Think of it this way, if we eat clean, exercise 4-5 times a week, get enough sleep, take vitamins, nurture ourselves spiritually, mentally and emotionally and strive to be happy at work and at play, we will be living a healthy lifestyle.
If we do all of the above and we still may not be feeling well, then we go see a doctor and/or therapist for additional support. It doesn’t mean we stop doing what we are already doing. If we find out that what we are receiving still is meeting our health needs, then we seek out additional support, medical attention until we identify and target exactly what needs to be healed. It’s the same with teaching our students.
Living the healthy life is our Tier 1 and providing a healthy Tier 1 core instruction is just the same. So how healthy is your Tier 1 core instruction? Maybe it’s time to find out. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out.
As always, happy teaching, learning and smiling.