Students at Meridian Elementary are receiving some extra help with their reading and comprehension skills.
The Response to Intervention (RTI) Program is a three-tiered reading model that is designed to meet the instructional needs of all young readers.
"This program is aimed at identifying struggling readers before they fall behind," Jennifer Swaim, the Title 1 Building Coordinator at Meridian Elementary, said. "In our case, this provides readers with the support that they need throughout their elementary years."
Student levels are assessed on their results on the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP+) Exam, Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) and the Northwestern Wisconsin Education Association (NWEA). Teachers and instructors will also assist in the assessment of the students.
"We assess students to find out what the needs are for each student," Swaim said. "So they can achieve success and get the on the right level."
Tier 1 is core instruction, the classroom teacher spends precisely 90 minutes, of uninterrupted time introducing a story to the class. Students are taught the vocabulary, background of the story and a review of how the previous days lessons play into the story, a lesson composed by teachers to meet the needs of the students in the class.
The students are then taken and split into small groups, 2-5 students per group. Students that are struggling are kept with the teacher for additional help. The rest of the class then goes to the REACH (Reaching every child at all levels) Room for Tier 2, supplemental instruction for at-risk or struggling students.
In the REACH Room, Swaim then sits with emergent students. They are considered students who are not quite up at grade level reading. For 25 minutes a day, students use the "I do, we do, you do" model. It allows for additional reinforcement of the work in the classroom.
"First, I begin by showing the students what to do, or how to say it, then we as a group do it together, and finally they do it on their own," Swaim said. "It allows for the student to have the one-on-one time in a smaller group setting than they would in the larger classroom."
During the time Swaim is with her group doing lessons and the classroom teacher with another group, the rest of the class is then split amongst four other instructional assistants, Pam Hendrix, Christina Jones, Holly Bell and Kelly Sparks.
"The programs, strategies and procedures are designed to supplement, enhance and support Tier 1," Swaim said. "The other instructors in the class also emphasize the five components of reading instruction, comprehension, fluency, phonics, phonemic awareness and vocabulary."
The students with the instructors are rotated to different tables in intervals to continue the work on the components of reading. Students within the same ability grouping are still receiving the remedial education, but are being "pushed to achieve higher."
"Progress monitoring and evaluations are done every two weeks to see if improvement is being made and where," Swaim said. "We are seeing improvements in the students and once they get better in one group then they move up into the next one."
The classroom teachers utilize the Voyager Program, she said, because it charts the progress of the student and it helps to keep them on track.
Supplemental instruction is systematic and explicit, it allows for modeling and multiple examples with opportunities for students to participate and respond. The instruction is paced to match each student's individual instructional level as well as allowing feedback to the student.
Tier 3 is designed for instruction for intensive intervention. It is designed for the reading instruction that extends beyond the time allowed for tiers 1 and 2.
In Tier 3, students are broken into two 30-minute sessions a day with the additional Tier 1 90-minute sessions, four days a week with only three students per groups with progress monitoring every two weeks. Students in this tier are considered special needs students.
"Currently, we have two elementary schools who are piloting an RTI model, Forest Park and Meridian," Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Kim Tucker said.
"Many of the elementary teachers have received information and are in the process of determining which type of intervention model, instructional strategies and assessments would work best for their classroom and school. The secondary school teachers are also in the initial information gathering stage."
Tucker said a district-wide action plan to provide training and support for all of the schools over the next few years is in the works.
Every student at Meridian is involved in the RTI program.
"Attitude is everything, we make it fun and interesting," Swaim said. "The kids like it because they are learning."
Collaboration is achieved amongst the RTI staff and the teachers to gain ideas and knowledge.
"I feel like this is the best thing we can do to reach all of the students and I believe we are doing a good thing here," she said. " You can see the progress, it is rewarding, the best benefit is to know the students are learning."