All Fort Dodge Community School District teachers received Response to Intervention training before the start of the school year.
"RTI is thinking about the safety net you put together for all kids in a school system," Stacey Cole, FDCSD director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said. "What it really means is, regardless of the classroom teacher that a child would get, how does the system ensure when a student doesn't have grade-level expectation skills ... there is a safety net to help them get those skills."
RTI creates a system, Cole said, that identifies students' needs.
"With RTI, we really say, as a system, how are we going to ensure kids' needs get met?" she said. "When a student scores X on an assessment, what are we going to do to ensure next time they score Y?"
Creating a proper RTI system can take several years, Cole said.
"We are well on our way to getting that piece in place," she said. "We use assessments to drive the instruction students receive. Every level in the Fort Dodge system has the screener assessments that begins the process. Some buildings are farther along than others, but we're definitely on our way to setting up the system."
According to Rosie Ellendson, FDCSD literacy coach, intervention helps students.
"It really narrows it down to exactly what those students need to help to grow," Ellendson said.
For example, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills assessment, or DIBELS, tests for fluency, accuracy and comprehension.
"Based on that assessment they say, okay, this shows this student really needs help with accuracy," Ellendson said. "During that intervention, that's what they work on. And the next time they take it, their accuracy scores, nine out of ten times, we've seen growth on."
She added, "We've seen a lot of improvement based on where we narrow it down and work on that intervention, based on that assessment."
Given these tools at an early age, students become better learners as they grow because they know how to correctly address their needs.
"When we were growing up, we were told when you came to a difficulty to sound it out," Ellendson said. "One of the interventions we use now is fix-up strategies. Let's look for chunks, because that's faster. For a struggling student, if they sound out every word, what happens to them, they forget the meaning of the text. And with reading, comprehension is the ultimate goal."
Cole said RTI is a priority for the school district.
"We've had pieces of RTI in place before," she said. "The district is doing Positive Behavior Intervention Support. PBIS is actually a piece of the RTI puzzle. We set up our system to say, we're going to teach kids what we want them to know, what behavior we expect, what math computation piece we expect, the reading decoding skills, whatever it is. Then, we're going to look at all kids and look to see who already knew it before we started teaching it and who is still struggling with it."