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Classroom interventions
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Many people know about the food pyramid and the Egyptian pyramids, but few know about the pyramid of intervention.

Kenneth Proctor, Newton County School System director of elementary curriculum, presented information about the strategies and systematic responses to students who need additional support in school.

The Georgia Department of Education created a four-tier pyramid of intervention as the conceptual framework for instruction, which is intended to cater to the needs of low- to high-achieving students.

"This model has come about as a product of No Child Left Behind and the renewal of IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] in 2004," Proctor said.

The entire framework revolves on the pattern - plan, do, check and act.

Tier one is known as "standards-based classroom learning." At this level, students participate in general education learning based on the Georgia Performance Standards and work in small groups. Their progress is monitored frequently.

"This is what is in place for all students," Proctor said.

In fall, winter, and spring, school Early Behavioral/Instructional Support teams meet for a half-day to discuss the performance of all students. The teams review students in areas of academics, behavior, speech/language and attendance.

Tier two targets students lacking or excelling in those areas.

Students who fall below the 20th percentile on screening measures and/or who have other considerable behavioral or attendance problems are placed on the EBIS Group Intervention and Planning Form.

"What they are doing this for is to really put this child on the radar that they need additional support," Proctor said.

The teams meet monthly to track the progress of the students on the form.

Another purpose of EBIS teams is to plan, implement and modify interventions for targeted students focusing on alterable instructional variables.

Alterations include but are not limited to the adding of another instructional period (double dose), pre-teaching components of the core program, providing additional staff development, reducing group size and meeting frequently to examine progress.

EBIS team members decide at monthly meetings whether the group intervention has been successful and a student no longer needs small group instruction, the intervention is working and should be continued, the intervention is not working and should be revised or refined, or, the intervention is highly unlikely to work and the student needs a more individualized approach.

"When we move up the pyramid," Proctor said, "the level of intervention becomes more intense and the number of students decreases."

Tier three involves the assignment of a student to a Student Support Team.

At this level, students participate in learning characterized by individualized assessments, interventions specifically tailored to students' needs or referral to specifically designed instruction if deemed necessary.

"If a teacher comes to eligibility for special education for a student, but does not have adequate data showing the steps of the pyramid of intervention have been followed, then she will have to go back and gather that data," Proctor said.

Referral to a formal special education program or gifted education evaluation moves the student into tier four of the pyramid of interventions.

These students participate in specialized programs and learn from adapted content, methodology or instructional delivery.

NCSS employees are currently developing a master list or resource guide of supplemental reading and math programs to be used at each level of intervention.

Proctor said some successes have already been seen with pre-K and kindergarten students. When teachers adjusted instructional variables in the classroom, fewer students were referred to speech and language pathologists.

He added Teacher Leaders, or professional learning coordinators from each school, have been instrumental in delivering information about the process to their colleagues.

"I would say, at the beginning of the year, we had 20 percent of our teachers who knew what the terms pyramid of intervention or response to intervention meant," Proctor said. "Today, I would say we have 100 percent who understand what they mean and who are actively engaged in the process, so we've come a long way."

In other news from Tuesday evening's BOE meeting,

• The board approved the donation of 1.79 acres of land on the southern side of Salem Road, where a new elementary school is under construction and a new middle school will be built, to the Georgia Department of Education. In return for the land donation, GDOT will grant three access lanes at the site.

• Because Newton County has been identified as an exceptional growth school system and utilizes 155 trailers as classroom spaces, the board approved requesting the State Board of Education grant a Georgia Class Size Waiver Application for any eligible kindergarten through eighth grade classroom which exceeds the maximum class size by one student.

Kindergarten classes may have 18 students or 20 with a paraprofessional. All first, second and third grade classes may have 21 students. For fourth- through eighth-grade classrooms, the maximum class size jumps to 28.