Making Change: Part 1

I’ve been doing some thinking about the last post, regarding the need for change.  I was (intentionally) vague in stating how we need to change, although I had planned to address that issue later.  What I realize now is that this is way more than one post; here is part one of [who knows how many?].

Sometimes the systems in which we work are broken and need fixing.  One of these systems that deserves our attention is the options and support available to students who are below grade level in mathematics, particularly at the secondary level.  The reality is that all teachers should know more about the Response to Intervention (RtI) model besides the fact that such a model exists.

How do we provide for these students?  We must begin by understanding their individual needs.  Diagnostic assessment data provides one perspective and can help identify potential students .  Another important factor is teacher input; this provides a critical perspective about students who would or would not benefit from some type of intervention.  The system within a school or district needs to support the transition process and provide the opportunity for teachers – those who know the students at the individual level – to provide input into the intervention placement process.

Once we are aware of individual student needs, we need to approach the numbers of students – however daunting or discouraging – with a positive attitude.  Schools and districts need to find ways to accommodate the needs of these students.  The key to this system is increased time and intensity – “remediation” in the traditional sense will not work, because we are obligated to help students who are below grade level get on a trajectory that will get them to grade level proficiency (hopefully before they leave our buildings). 

The task, then, is to find a way to increase the time that these students are spending in mathematics – often through “double-dose” courses – with resources that are not changing and sometimes decreasing.  In most cases, this process involves a significant change in the way that schools and school districts do business.  However, this change to the existing system is necessary to facilitate further changes that will benefit the students whom we serve.

(Next time: Changing the way we think about instruction and instructional resources for students below grade level.)