During the 2013-14, 10% of Iowa elementary schools were identified for Phase 1 of Iowa’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) initiative. The story below highlights the experience of a Phase 1 school in the Grant Wood AEA area.
Hoover Elementary in West Branch is one of the schools in the Grant Wood AEA service area selected to participate in MTSS Transformation Phase One to improve literacy. The West Branch School District joins Clear Creek Amana’s three elementaries and the Center Point-Urbana, College Community, and Monticello school districts.
Hoover Elementary’s Jessica Burger, principal, and Erin McFarland, a kindergarten teacher, shared their experiences participating in the Transformation Phase One process. “The addition of the universal screeners has been a nice tool for us,” Burger said. “This is the most consistent building-wide piece of data that we have collected on a regular basis. It is helpful to have building-wide data available with that level of frequency.”
“We’ve learned that the work that we are doing ties to the professional learning communities (PLC) work that we started during the previous school years,” Burger continued. “The two have have been very connected.”
McFarland explained that the work provides support for students at different academic levels. “Our work takes a deeper look at what students need and strategies that will help them,” she continued. “Our team works together to build a bank of strategies, so that teachers can provide additional supports and increase communication in grade level teams as well as grade to grade.”
Burger continued, “We are a building that has had a lot of supplemental intervention support” she continued. “One of the things that we’ve learned is to rethink the design of those supports and take a few steps back to dig deeper into our core instruction. You can’t intervene your way out of weak core instruction. This work has allowed us to shift the focus to not always think that the intervention will provide the fix. A solid, consistent core is key.”
“What this really means is breaking down the definition of what our core reading block will and won’t include,” Burger said. “We’re working as a building to have scheduling discussions and brainstorming ways to protect instructional time and ensure all students are provided grade level core instruction.”
“Our daily schedule discussions really focus on the amount of time we have with our students to make sure that everyone is involved,” McFarland continued. “We make sure that we have constant communication and share with each other what we are working on during the week. The conversations help us to bridge our different strategies/styles so that all students are receiving solid core instruction.”
As a building, Hoover Elementary has been working with the Daily 5 framework. Burger shared that this framework is helping the school deliver a highly effective core instruction block.
“The Daily 5 framework is great for all students because they are more involved in their own learning and taking ownership for their reading,” McFarland said. “We use a variety of texts, word work activities, listening to reading, and other activities to make the Daily 5 framework happen.”
“Our students are aware of their strengths,” McFarland continued. “They know how to help themselves through the daily five rounds, such as read to self independently. They are aware of their strengths, weaknesses and understand the focus they need to practice those skills/strategies. Data notebooks are used to track their progress as they work toward an individual goal. It makes it more powerful because it is their own goal.”
Burger continued, “As a building, we are also working to incorporate student personal goal setting and progress monitoring through use of data notebooks and public displays of the data.”
Myrissa Gingerich, GWAEA curriculum consultant, is providing support to district staff for the process. “It has been wonderful having her support,” Burger added. “She has been a very present and active part of our team, joining us for professional development and helping our leadership team with the roll out. Myrissa helps us deliver accurate and consistent information to staff.”
“As an administrator, I can’t say enough about the importance of the leadership team in this work,” Burger said. “These people continue to put in extra time and effort in the role of supporting teachers with implementation, planning and delivering professional development, and ensuring the overall continued success of the work.”
“Having teachers involved is important,” McFarland added. “I feel very privileged to be a part of the leadership team with teachers who share the same passion for their work. Understanding RTI/MTSS will help us to dig deeper in the years to come. Our staff enjoys doing this work. It’s part of our day and it is just what we do here at Hoover Elementary.”
Collaborating for Iowa’s Kids (C4K) is a delivery system for statewide work and includes the Area Education Agencies (AEAs), the Iowa Department of Education (DE) and local school districts (LEA). The intent of C4K is to work more effectively and efficiently as a full educational system to accomplish agreed-upon priorities. The current focus of C4K is early literacy chosen because of the integral role that literacy has in the success of all other academic and social areas.