We acknowledge that, for students with significant deficits in foundational skills, the personalized nature of these intensive, highly-specific Tier 3 supports may feel enforced. These vulnerable students may feel as they though have neither the ability to exercise agency nor voice and choice in regard to these interventions that are targeting a specific need within their zone of proximal development.

 

We understand and we have been there. Several orientations and strategies have proven to successfully persuade students and parents to partner with us in this crucial endeavor: 

 

1. This is the right thing to do – If a significant deficit exists within the foundational skills of literacy, numeracy, or behavior, the chances of happiness and success in school and life are limited. We believe that advocating for these supports is a moral imperative.

 

2. Transparency – We feel that honesty about current levels of readiness and necessary levels of mastery vis-à-vis foundational skills with students and parents is a must. We don’t blame, we’re objective, and we establish…

 

3. Positive relationships – we often hear that vulnerable students with deficits in foundational skills often already don’t like school. Singling them out for intensive supports will only exacerbate that antipathy toward learning. We contend that there are two other possible explanations for students lack of engagement in, and enjoyment with, school: they may not have a positive relationship with an adult on campus and they more than likely do not feel successful in most academic classes. We can influence both issues. 

 

4. Get students involved – While we will argue that all students deserve a personalized learning plan, this is particularly true for vulnerable students. We involve students in self-assessing their needs, their progress, and in establishing goals.

 

5. Agency, voice, and choice – We are committed to partnering with the student to close gaps that may exist; how we do so can be varied. Therefore, we strive to provide options and involve the student in their learning.

 

6. Five days a week of intensive supports for our most vulnerable students in better than four; however, a few schools set aside one day a week for the type of enrichment opportunities that we will describe below for all students.

 

We view progress monitoring as a logical task with which to meaningfully involve students. In other words, progress monitoring can help motivate the intervention process. Progress-monitoring assessments measure the extent to which students are responding to supplemental interventions. Progress monitoring is feedback:

 

7. Feedback for educators: How well have we matched the support to the diagnosed need?

 

8. Feedback for students: How much growth am I making? Where are my strengths and where do I still have needs? What are my next goals? What can I do? What support do I need?

 

They also ensure that the right interventions have been chosen for a student or a group of students. Assessments used to measure student mastery of core essentials and progress-monitoring assessments share quite a few attributes. While assessments used to measure student mastery of core essentials determine all students’ responses to core instruction, and in alternative forms, students’ responses to more interventions, progress-monitoring assessments determine the responses of at-risk students to the most intensive interventions. Teachers collect student performance data from progress monitoring on a regular basis, and plot results over time. Drawing a line of best fit through student scores provides an indication of the rate of improvement, or lack of improvement, that the student is making toward achieving mastery of specific skills.

 

Progress monitoring is an essential tool within a well-defined collaborative system of support. It assesses the adequacy of school supports as well as students’ responses to these supports. Information can lead a team to conclude that a student needs a more intense level of support or decide that a student has responded to interventions and may be successful with a less intensive level of support. Fuchs and Fuchs (2008) summarized the need for progress monitoring within RTI:

 

9. To determine whether primary prevention (i.e., the core instructional program) is working for a given student. 

 

10. To distinguish adequate from inadequate response to intervention and thereby identify students likely to have a disability. 

 

11. To inductively inform individualized instruction programs, by determining what does not work as well as to optimize learning for students likely to have learning disabilities. 

 

12. To determine when the student’s response to intervention indicates that a return to less intensive supports is possible. 

 

Progress monitoring ensures that students receive the intensity of supports that they need to succeed. It also provides the evidence to justify removing supports when progress indicates that skill deficits have been ameliorated, so that students receive supports in the least restrictive levels of support.

 

Students with significant deficits in foundational skills need support desperately and they need it now. They can be successful; they can catch up. They will. They must.

 

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