RTI Intervention Mistakes




Tier 1.  Tier 2.  Tier 3.

These are not terms I learned in college more than 11 {yikes!} years ago.  In fact, until this past year, I didn’t fully understand what this RTI business was all about.  I sat through a 30 minute presentation several years back about the Pyramid of Intervention and thought, “Okay, so this is how kids qualify for special education now.  Check.”  And went on about my teaching…

It wasn’t until recently that I began to understand how Response to Intervention {RTI} and classroom differentiation really were connected.  2 years ago, my district was asked to essentially jump off the deep end into using PLCs to guide an intervention block of time.  And 2 years later and 2 school districts later I can say that now I get it.

But…BUT….that was after many trials of coming up from the deep end gasping for air, lots of panicky dog paddling and a little bit of drowning too. LOL!:)  Here are the mistakes I’ve made myself and mistakes I’ve witnessed when trying to make an intervention block work within your PLC team.  …And, most importantly, here are the 6 “INSTEADS” that I’m doing from now on with RTI intervention!

1. No Data

If intervention is going to work, we have to come to our PLC with the data.  The question is not, “What do you think?”  The question is “What does the data say?”  When our PLC team meets to talk about Tier 2 kids, we are expected to bring our data.  My husband would loose his job on the spot if he showed up to Walmart Home Offices for a presentation with no data.  Why do we think it’s okay to sit at a table and talk about kids without records to back us up?

Instead…Bring Yo Data! 🙂
I start off the year with tons of district assessments that are required.  I organize that in my data wall so I have no excuses for our first PLC meeting.

As I assess, I record the scores in the data wall.  It’s really no extra work at all!  And when it’s time for our first PLC or RTI meeting, I haul my laptop down to our meeting and have my data on hand to help me talk about kids.

Yes, our teacher intuition is important.  I’ve had the feeling of, “but I just know….” many times over the last 10 years of teaching.  But my PLC team and administrators take me much more seriously when I can back up that statement with some numbers!

2. Too Much Data

Then, there’s the flip side of this coin….too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Instead…Assess for ONLY the data you NEED! 
Good RTI interventions can be planned around the data we already are required to have.  There is no need to make up an additional assessment just for an intervention.  Don’t get me wrong…if you want to assess just because it’s super fun and you have plenty of extra time on your hands, then go for it!  But, I struggle to find enough time to assess what’s required, much less extras!  If it’s needed, then I’m happy to make the time.  Most of the time, though, interventions that are super effective can be built around the data I already have.  Double the work is not how good teachers roll!

3. No Flexibility

Remember the days of the red bird, blue bird and black bird readers?  Once a black bird, always a black bird, right?  Well, gone are those days.

Instead…be willing to move kids as needed!
My kiddos look forward to switching intervention groups…even kids like a fresh start!  But flexibility is more than just redoing intervention groups every so often.  It’s getting 2 days into intervention groups and realizing Sammy is a lot farther behind the rest of the group than you expected and really needs to be in that other group.  It’s getting excited for Sally because she’s soaring during intervention time and would really benefit from extension now.

When our PLC team sits down to plan our intervention grid, it is not set it stone.  It’s a fluid document and we have just come to expect changes.  Because always staying a black bird is not what’s appropriate.  And great teachers are in the business of doing what’s best for kids.

4. Too Much Flexibility

And while being flexible is what’s best for kids, there’s a flip side to this one too.  I’ve lived through some way-too-flexible interventions.  Switching kids around every week or every two weeks and expecting any growth in that amount of time was just wishful thinking on my part at the beginning of my intervention experience! And if pre- and post-assessments are required for each intervention cycle then just forget about that teaching thing.

Instead…give your RTI intervention time to work before switching everyone!
We have to be willing to change kids around….but within reason!  And we have to be willing to stay the course long enough to figure out if our intervention is working!

5. Focusing on the Why Nots

Because the RTI system is set up to identify kids who are not successful in the regular classroom, our first instinct is to focus on the kids who are struggling.  And that’s important.  Don’t get me wrong.  One of the superintendent’s I taught under and consider one of the greats used to say,

Who’s not performing? Why not? And what are we going to do about it?

All valid questions.  Extremely valid.  And it helped make me the data driven, small group focused teacher I am today.  However, somewhere along the way I started feeling guilty for my strongest learners and the little attention I was giving them.  How was this fair?  Their parents trusted me to give 110% to their child too, right?

So, INSTEAD…. after a lot of reflecting over the years, I’ve changed my mindset to…

Who’s not performing? Why not? And what am I going to do about it?
Who’s achieving? Why? And how am I going to keep them growing?

By focusing on these two areas, I am able to find out what’s not working as well as what is working.  We can add extension groups to our intervention block and not feel bad about it.  I can pull small groups of my highest learners more than once a month and feel less guilty about the students I’m not working with and more like I’m fulfilling my promise to every child and every parent who has trusted me with their most treasured possession!  A wise co-worker once told me that parents send us the best that they have every day to school–and while that has a world of implications, I like to think that parents of my lowest and my highest babies feel their child is the best they have.  And I want to do everything I can to treat them like the best–no matter their academic abilities.

6. These Are MY Kids

This is a big one.  My first year teaching I realized really fast that I can’t do it all.  While I’d love to be everything to every child every day….that just doesn’t happen.  It is physically impossible.

Instead… These are OUR kids!
So the fact that I was on a “dream team” for so many years that shared kiddos was a blessing that I didn’t even realize I had at the time!  You can read about how we shared our kiddos during guided reading groups here…and intervention groups work the same way with my teammates.  Check out how we *physically* share our kiddos during intervention time using this interactive intervention grid.  It’s seriously been a life changer for planning how we would share kids!

Watch this video first to see exactly how I use this document!

Intervention groups really only work when your whole PLC team is on board.  Otherwise we are just differentiating in our classroom.  Thankfully, both schools I’ve taught at had an “our kids” mindset.  Not just in physically sharing kids, but in owning the successes and failures.  While Jane may be in my classroom, my teammates who see her during intervention are the first to be frustrated when she hits a brick wall and are the first to celebrate with me when she succeeds!  And that’s a culture that is so SO important in a school.  It’s not me against you.  There is no, “my kids are smarter than your kids.” And at the school level, there is not one shining grade level favored above the rest.  Because every grade level has a part in each child’s story.

They’re our kids.
Our family.
And…we are all in this together. (Cue the music!)

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