Madison Magazine June-July 2019 - Page 23

Schools academic intervention systems explained I t had been increasingly difficult to get their son to do his nightly reading assignment. Initially, he was excited to learn to read but that quickly faded. Now, the parents struggled to get him to read anything, even when they helped. The parents had reached out to the school and his teachers. Their son’s teacher had acknowledged that he was struggling but that interven- tions were being put in place to address his reading progress. After a couple of months, the parents received some sheets home from school with the name of some program and apparently random numbers regarding their son’s reading progress and how it compared to others. However, they were still seeing him struggle to read at home and wondered if there was something else that could be done. Parents can often feel con- fused when their children experience academic difficulties. Schools sometimes do not fully inform parents at the efforts be- ing made to help children who are struggling to read, write or do math. This can create frus- tration for parents who want their children to make progress and catch up with their class- mates but feel the school is not responding adequately. When this happens, it is often due to the schools not fully com- municating with parents about the interventions that are being done in the classroom. There is a system of interventions that most school districts use to en- sure that all students who are struggling academically receive services that target their ar- eas of weakness. The systems usually go by the names Re- sponse to Intervention (RTI) or Multi-Tier Systems of Support (MTSS). These systems are an out- growth of the federal special education law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This law specified a system of supports be created to identify all students who are falling behind expected progress and to receive interventions immediately rather than wait until students are failing before intervening. The system is set up in three Dan Florell, Ph.D. & Praveena Salins, M.D. Growing Up tiers that reflect the level of support students need. Tier I is focused on the general school curriculum. The idea is that 80% of all students should make adequate progress within a school’s general curriculum. Another part of Tier I is to mon- itor all students roughly three to four times per year to mea- sure their progress. Testing like the Measurement of Academic Progress (MAP) is one example of Tier 1 progress monitoring. Students are typically moved to Tier II in the system when their scores on the Tier I testing is low. This is roughly 20% of students and the focus changes to small group instruction and intervention in students’ areas of weakness. These groups have a curriculum designed to ad- dress students who are strug- gling in the particular academic area. At this point, the prog- ress monitoring becomes more frequent and may occur every week to two. Students can be in Tier II for several months depending on how they are progressing. The goal is to catch these students up with their classmates. For a few students, Tier II interventions won’t be enough and they are moved to Tier III. Tier III is the most intensive stage and instruction is indi- vidualized for students. An example of a Tier III interven- tion is Reading Recovery where children participate in intensive one-on-one instruction with a Reading Specialist. Progress monitoring is frequent and can even occur daily. If students continue to have difficulty, they are typically referred for a spe- cial education evaluation. Understanding the three tiered system of RTI or MTSS can help parents know how their children’s academic dif- ficulties are being addressed. If parents receive paperwork from school that looks like a report of progress but it is unclear what it means, reach out to teachers and ask for some clarity on how to interpret the results. Schools and parents both want children to be able to learn, they some- times just don’t communicate that to each other well enough. Dan Florell, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Eastern Kentucky University and has a private practice, MindPsi (www.mindpsi.net). Praveena Salins, M.D., is a pediatrician at Madison Pediatric Associates (www.madisonpeds.com). J U N E - J U LY 2 0 1 9 Madison Magazine 23