The best educators are continually analyzing what we do and how it can be better. Every teacher who’s had several sections of the same class knows that the lesson gets better and better as the day goes on. We “course correct” as we study how our students respond to the lesson. The minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, write:
To err is human; therefore, one of the most important skills we can develop is course correction. It’s crucial to recognize when a mistake is a mistake . . . and then to change course and move forward a better person.
Or to move forward a better school system. As school leaders this is often a place where we fall down. We purchase and implement a program or textbook series or we create and hire a new position to solve a problem and then we walk away. That seldom works.
Once we implement, we have to continue to listen, to pay attention, to follow through and to course correct where needed. The hardest part is finding a balance between where to set non-negotiables (systemic expectations) and where to allow for course correction.
Here’s an example of the course correction needed here at SGI with the implementation and convergence of two different plans with two different, but similar, technology solutions.
First we have our Response to Intervention (RTI) Plan. The purpose of this plan is to use a valid, reliable diagnostic tool for early identification and then support of students potentially in need of intervention in grades K-5. A dedicated team of teachers and administrators worked with our Director of Special Education, Shelly Sarikey and Dr. Lisa Kilanowski, an associate professor of psychology at Niagara University to develop our RTI Plan. They outlined the goals, identified a benchmark assessment and detailed the progress monitoring and program specifics of each tier of intervention.
Second we have our Academic Intervention Services (AIS) Plan. The purpose of this plan is to combine a valid and reliable growth measure and individualized instruction for every student grades K-6. Implemented during the Intervention Block (IB) that all K-6 students have every day, this personalized learning path is developed for all learners. The adaptive testing and diagnostic instruction helps us meet the unique needs of each individual student. Coupled with the fluid ability groups designed in our AIS Plan, teachers are able to focus on the needs of a smaller group during IB, also challenging our most advanced students.
As we implemented both of these plans, we assumed they would run concurrently and we would be sure to meet the needs of all of our students. What we found was a complicated set of circumstances including a diagnostic tool for the RTI plan that was new and just didn’t work well. I’m forever grateful for the ways in which our Administrative Team has continued to pay attention, listen to our teachers and parents and then to course correct.
What does course correction look like in this case? Lots of listening to everyone involved and plenty of face to face discussions that led us to say, “why can’t we use this one valid and reliable diagnostic tool to satisfy the goals of both plans?” It requires changes to the RTI Plan, but not in the area of intent or goals, just in the area of the assessment tool and progress monitoring.
Our specialized RTI teachers can still do what they’ve always done–use a multitude of strategies and materials to work with small groups of students to intervene and differentiate instruction for every student. At the same time, the tool they’ll use to progress monitor their students is aligned with what the classroom teachers are using and they have access to the same individualized diagnostic instruction.
It’s one thing to have a great plan on paper. It’s another thing to implement a plan successfully. It’s critical to “administer” the plan and to make changes as needed. It may be messy while we figure it out, but it’s worth it. Thank you to our entire SGI team for working through the implementation of two new plans intended to help our students succeed in our schools.