Columns: Interventions to help close achievement gap
WORTHINGTON -- District 518, like many other districts in Minnesota, is focusing efforts on closing the achievement gap for all students. There are a number of programs, software and remediation efforts that can help work towards this. Worthington is working to capitalize on its already existing intervention program at Prairie Elementary and implement an intensive Intervention Program at the middle school.
What is an intervention? An intervention in the general education environment is a process of identifying and working to improve challenges students are having. These may be either academic or behavioral challenges.
The National Center on Response to Intervention details best practices for implementing interventions that include: 1. Interventions are systematic. This means that when an indicator is present (such as a student reading below their grade level); they automatically receive some type of support mechanism, such as small group reading support. 2. Interventions are mandatory. For example, any student who reads below grade level will receive this support, not just some of them. 3. Interventions are offered during the school day. There are a number of ways classroom teachers intervene to support students in this manner. Some best instructional practices include: individual student progress monitoring, grouping students of similar abilities in the same classes and spending extra time with a teacher if they are failing a class.
The Response to Intervention model became widely used when it was included in the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is used by District 518 at the elementary level. Currently, the elementary has five interventionists that work with students primarily in the reading area. Classroom teachers and interventionists work together, as many interventionists are delivered within the mainstream classroom. Interventionists work within the classroom or pull students out who need more intense, small group or individual work.
In April, the school board approved an additional teaching position at the middle school to provide specific intervention courses for students. These classes will incorporate skills, strategies and content in the areas of reading, writing and math. Students in grades 5, 6, 7 and 8 will be selected for one or more of the courses based on data scores from MCA and NWEA tests, along with teacher recommendation. Each student in this course will have an individualized learning plan and intensive progress monitoring. The overall goal of the course is to have student increase their knowledge in these key content areas, improve skills and strategies and raise their test achievement scores.
Interventions tie directly to the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) the district is implementing as a part of the Flexible Learning Year. One of the four essential questions of PLCs is "How will we (educators) respond when students haven't learned the material the first time?" Interventions work to the heart of that question.
District 518 already has many interventions in place for all grades. The goal is that through strategic implementation, increased focus and maximizing the use of current programs, this model becomes a leading tool in helping students grow, learn and close the achievement gap for District 518.
Katie Clarke is the coordinator of curriculum and instruction.