Schools report positive results from RTI

During Tuesday's school board meeting, elementary, middle and high schools presented information about implementing a new teaching process.

Response to Instruction & Intervention (also known as RTI) is a technical approach supported by the state that takes a hands-on approach to instruction, intervention, prevention and behavioral strategies.

"The idea is putting systems and structures in place for teacher collaboration for high-quality instruction and high-quality intervention, which is tailored to the student's needs," said Assistant Supt. of Instructional Service Nancy Hubbell.

El Morro and Top of the World elementary schools implemented the program about five years ago, Hubbell said, and Thurston Middle School followed shortly after. This is the first year that Laguna Beach High School has participated. Each school, which used RTI in different ways, saw student performance increase.

All four schools emphasized preventing students from falling behind.

Teachers want to give the best first instruction they can to ensure the prolonged learning of their students, Hubbell said. By focusing on the green zone, or students meeting their grade's criteria, they believe they'll keep improving, she said.

At El Morro, the students are separated according to their learning level. Students who are struggling are taught using reader's theater and kinesthetic/musical activities. Students at the other end of the spectrum engage in literature circles, research and reading discussions.

After implementing RTI in September, the number of students labeled "good" increased from 24% to 80% and students labeled "unsatisfactory" dropped from 46% to 9% in reading comprehension. For math, students labeled "satisfactory" went from 69% to 92%.

Thurston focused on reducing the number of students who repeatedly receive F grades by having them attend a mandatory lunch period. School officials reported that last year, they had 50 or more students in that category every six weeks.

After implementing RTI, 14 students were in that group in the most recent six-week period.

Laguna Beach High used RTI in everything from special education to Advanced Placement classes. They've focused on using more academic language, choosing five words per week, with students' usage tracked by tallies. They're also using higher order thinking skills by encouraging debate and short essays.

Laguna Beach High followed five "at risk" students and incorporated RTI strategies over the course of six weeks. All five students' grades increased at least one level, while one increased as much as 20%.

Results of the first benchmark showed 64% at advanced level and 22% at a basic level.

"Learning is not a spectator sport," said Laguna Beach High special education teacher Michelle Foster. "You have to engage them."

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