Have you ever had a student struggle and you are confused as to why?
Have you had a student who isn’t making academic gains and/or struggles in the social realm?
Over the years, we have encountered many students who have struggled and have been a puzzle to each of us. Sometimes our students do not follow the norms of language and academic growth. They are not growing similar to other students who come from the same cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Many different strategies and tools were tried to increase language and academic growth, but nothing seemed to work. The classroom teachers would come to Katie in angst with concerns about EL students with this profile; they didn’t know what more to do. I and the classroom teacher were out of our tools in our toolbox. Where did we go next? Often times the student with EL was then brought to Child Study to request testing. Then came a wonderful model that pulls the best of the best professionals to bear on the problem rather than struggling to solve the puzzle individually. It is called RtI (Response to Intervention)
What is RtI?
The RtI (Response to Intervention) model is very helpful in defining student concerns and developing systematic, research-based interventions that inform instruction and assist in determining whether a student is struggling with executive function (information processing issues), mental-health issues, understanding the hidden academic cultural curriculum, and/or social curriculum used within schools. RtI is used throughout the district in the form of many different titles (i.e. Student Assistance Teams, Student Intervention Teams, Professional Learning Communities, etc.).
Can I bring an EL student forth to use the RtI model?
YES! All students can be brought forth to these teams to use the RtI model. The RtI model is a great way to assist teachers in exploring different strategies.
The power of the RtI model is its focus on accessing a problem-solving team that is focused on student growth. This team brings the expertise of professionals together to define the learning difficulty in measurable terms, pull from their collective tool box of differentiated teaching strategies that best meets the defined need of the student, assists in developing a data collection tool (see data tracker) to collect student response to the differentiated teaching strategy, and then to meet at predetermined intervals to review the student’s response to the intervention in order to determine next steps (RtI Process Chart). The beauty of this team is that it is composed of professionals who work with the student, and also professionals who join the team with expertise in the skill area targeted. Using a Data Tracker gives the team objective, focused data to truly inform the decisions they work together to make. The team membership has the ability to change to meet student needs. This team is also willing to research differentiation strategies or make a referral to the Child Study Team when their collective tool boxes have been exhausted or the data indicates the student potentially has a disability and is responsive to more intensive, daily, individualized interventions.
When supporting a student with English learning needs, parental input from the English Language Learner Parent Interview will provide valuable information when establishing strategic, research based differentiated instructional strategies (SIOP for example). When supporting a student with English learning needs, it is imperative to ensure the EL Teacher is involved from the start to ensure matching differentiated strategies are used support the student’s WIDA level of learning and learning profile. Many of these strategies also help our struggling learners and special education students. Our EL staff are very valuable collaborators.
What can I do before I bring an EL student forth to the team
There are a few things that EL and content teachers can do before they begin the RtI process. It is important that the EL and content teachers work as a team since both will see the student through different lenses. WIDA provides some great resources to assist teachers in understanding what students are capable of doing at different language levels. They provide what is called the Can-Do Descriptors of language. Katie has taken the descriptors and created a document that lists what students are able to do in a more concise format. It also provides scaffolds that teachers can use to support students at different language levels.
Image from WIDA's website.
I don’t know who my ELs are and/or I don't know their language levels?
The EL teachers are a great resource in your building and happy to help you identify your English Learners. They can also provide you their language levels. Additionally, they can give you helpful hints to help you tweak your lessons to provide more language scaffolds. Sometimes small changes in a lesson can make a huge impact. For example, instead of just giving your directions orally, write them on the board, provide visuals and gestures so students know what is expected of them.
Our team has decided to bring a student forth through the RtI Process. What happens first
The EL teacher will complete the Parent Interview. This parent interview is to provide background information, past educational experiences, language exposure and other valuable information that can help the team better understand the student. Sometimes they will ask for support from our amazing bilingual team. Then the team will complete the first couple of pages of the Intervention Form in order to be prepared for your first RtI meeting. Both forms can be found on the 535 Net →Internal Documents → Student Support Services → Child Study-Child Study Information. Then follow the RtI Process Chart to understand next steps.
Who can I contact if I have more questions
The Student Support Services team at your site is a great place to start. They can help guide you through the process. Also, Katie is also happy to assist in any way if you have questions regarding EL.
We hope that this information is helpful as you navigate your way through the RtI model.
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