I have been writing a series of articles for an educational journal and was reminded how challenging it can be, for both the student and the teacher, when students transition from elementary to middle school, and from middle school to high school.
Whether we call it differentiated instruction, inclusion, or Response to Intervention (RTI), one important fact is always present – as educators, we have a responsibility to adapt our approaches, and to differentiate for our students, in ways that benefit them at whatever level of development they happen to be. Implementing successful RTI at the secondary level is a challenge that yields rich rewards.
We all know that the structure of middle and high schools is very different from that of elementary schools – this means that the structure and implementation of RTI must be different, too.
In the secondary grades, where students move from class to class through the course of the day, and need those classes to achieve the required number of credits to graduate, two things are required from us, as educators:
- As classroom teachers, we must take the time to differentiate our lessons, employ effective grouping practices, and assess frequently in order to see academic growth.
- As special educators and administrators, we must be creative in our scheduling of Tier 2 and 3 interventions so that students don’t miss out on the critical learning being offered by the classroom teacher.
It takes the combined efforts of the school community; teachers, specialists, administrators, parents, AND students – to effectively schedule and provide the supports that some of our students need.
Differentiating for ALL Learners
I like to call RTI “Really Terrific Instruction” because if we, as educators, do our jobs correctly, we have the opportunity to reach most of our student population – gifted through at-risk.
- Teach to the learning preferences of your students
- Utilize grouping strategies like Fitzell Acceleration Centers to challenge top students as well as target review of critical material with struggling learners.
- Assess students frequently using simple strategies like exit cards and adjust instruction based on that current data.
There will be students, no matter how terrific the classroom instruction, who need additional supports beyond those provided by the classroom teacher.
When applying Tier 2 and 3 interventions, carefully consider
- The student’s course schedule
- Learning preferences
- The interventions required
RTI should enhance and support the student’s understanding and retention of key course material. Interventions supplement grade-level instruction; they do not replace it. Just as teachers may offer extra help to teachers before and after school, a successful secondary RTI program may need to offer opportunities for intervention outside of the school day through after-school or weekend programs.
Successfully educating today’s youth requires responsible action from everyone in the school community.
- Administrators – Monitor and actively support the efforts of your general and special education staff to differentiate their classes for today’s learners.
- Teachers and specialists – Embrace the responsibility of teaching “to” your students rather than “at” them so that you, too may experience the joy and excitement that comes from making a difference for kids.
- Parents -Support your teen’s education by taking the time to understand how they learn best.
- Students – Take responsibility for your learning. Discover your strengths, understand how you learn, and advocate for your own understanding.
What part do you play in the successful education of today’s youth? What strategies have you found to be most successful?
For more information on differentiation and Response to Intervention, see Susan Fitzell’s book, RTI Strategies for Secondary Teachers.
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