Prairie to enact reading intervention for studentsRTI model will assist students before special education is required
By: Kari Lucin, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Prairie Elementary will shift some of its paraprofessionals and Title I reading specialists from higher to lower grade levels next year in order to intervene with students who need help reading sooner.
The new response to intervention (RTI) model will focus more on giving students an educational boost before they require special education programs rather than helping them once they’ve been identified as having special needs.
“The kid has to fail for so long before they get into special education—and why would we want kids to fail?” said Amy Paulzine, a Title I teacher.
Prairie Elementary is a Title I school, meaning it has a high number of students from low-income families. As such, Title I teachers can and do work with all students, not just the few who need help.
Much of the RTI plan has already been in place, but practiced for second grade and older students. Shifting many of the Title I resources to kindergarten through third grades means kids will get the reading help they need earlier.
For most classrooms, two paraprofessionals and a Title I teacher will visit the room from half an hour to an hour and a half, while the students break up into small groups for reading.
The groups will be different each day and determined by test scores on specific concepts and skills. Prairie students already take many tests, so no new testing will be required — the data will just be used more effectively.
An adult will teach and read with each group, targeting the specific skills the groups need, utilizing the regular reading curriculum.
“Title I has always had the stigma that the low-achieving kids go to Title, and that’s not going to be the case anymore,” Paulzine said.
The Title I teachers may assist the low-achieving groups some days and the high-achievers other days, and the groups themselves will shift significantly from day to day because the targeted skills will be different.
The new response to the intervention method should improve Prairie’s test scores, but it should also help make kids better readers, Paulzine said. For students who do end up in special education, there will already be a trail of documentation with specifics about what they need help with, too.
“If they can’t make it with all those interventions, then it’s probably a sign that they need those special education services,” Paulzine said.
If the RTI works well, a similar program will likely be used for math. The RTI is also in line with federal programs, although it has not yet been required of schools.
“We’re revamping our entire schedule with Title (teachers) and paraprofessionals,” Sheri Dorcey said. “… they say to start somewhere, so we’re focusing on reading.”
Dorcey, Paulzine, and fellow Title I teacher Amy Benson worked together to come up with the RTI plan, which includes what interventions should be, what screening assessments can be used and what instructional materials are available.