Intervention programs in general and response to intervention specifically have received a lot of attention in American education recently. Advances in instructional technology are giving educators stronger and more reliable tools to meet the growing challenge of providing effective interventions for diverse student populations. It is imperative, however, that we not simply run to the newest shiny gizmos as they emerge in the marketplace. Just as it is crucial to design a solid, research-based approach to implementing instructional strategies across all classrooms, so too is it essential that instructional technology tools are selected and implemented with the same scrutiny. In this series, we will explore the building blocks of what makes a solid technology tool for intervention, unique implementation challenges and technology solutions in both elementary and secondary schools, and finally, partnerships with a company like Edmentum as vital in meeting the varied needs of today’s students. Before we begin to discuss technology solutions and implementation strategies, however, let’s start with the most important part of any successful intervention program—the teacher!
In 2004, I had the good fortune of being tasked to open a new alternative school in an urban setting just south of Houston, Texas. As the first principal of The Summit, I had a great deal of influence on the design of the school. We served students who had been removed from their home schools due to disciplinary infractions, and as you can imagine, these infractions were usually only a symptom of larger behavioral and/or academic issues. With that in mind, we designed our entire educational approach around the philosophy that antisocial behavior and academic failure are linked in a cyclical manner. It was our job to intervene in both areas simultaneously and in a highly personalized manner. We would meet students where they were academically and behaviorally and also lead them to where they needed to be to experience success.
Every one of our students came to us with unique, and often challenging, prior experiences—all of the students’ stories moved me. However, one in particular stands out in my mind. Raymond was one of our first students that fall semester of 2004. At the time, he was 18 years old with holes in his transcript that made it look like swiss cheese. He met me at the door that first morning, looked me in the eye, and quickly said, “I’ll give you one day to convince me that this isn’t a waste of my time.”
Raymond’s credit challenges were not uncommon among our students. Our challenge as a staff was that we had only a small number of teachers certified to teach the academic core. Our teachers needed resources to support students who had fallen behind and help them get back on track. We implemented online courseware as a tool that could provide an exemptive pretest and the instructional content for enough courses to lead to graduation. We needed to provide students with the opportunity to show mastery of material instead of forcing them to work through an entire course that they may have already attempted in the past.
Let’s get back to Raymond’s story. He came back the second day. He came back a second week. In fact, Raymond became a positive leader on our small campus. In October, we held an open house at The Summit where we had school district and community leaders present to celebrate the opening of our new campus. Raymond spoke at that open house. He shared the words that he spoken to me on that first day, and he told of how he had no intention of coming back a second day. What changed his mind? “The teachers,” he said. He recounted how he had been prejudged his entire time in high school and had expected the same on our campus. Instead, he encountered smiles and handshakes from every teacher he met that day.
Raymond earned six additional credits during his time with us at The Summit, and he graduated at the end of that year. The online courses we implemented were the tool that allowed his acceleration to be possible, but it was his teachers who truly inspired and led him to see his path to success.
We all know many students like Raymond. Whether it’s an overage high school senior, a 3rd grader who struggles with reading, or an 8th grader who freezes when seeing numbers, we are challenged to help them every day. We know that it takes time, patience, and relationship building to teach. Instructional technology will never replace the need for the deeply human interaction that is teaching. It can, however, be a powerful tool in personalizing how we deliver education to students.
Teachers are the heroes in the intervention story within American schools, and they deserve the very best technology tools to get that job done. In addition to tools, strong implementation leadership and partnerships are essential. Over the next several weeks, I want to explore this topic in depth. Join me next week when I’ll by taking a look at key considerations when picking technology intervention solutions, as well as essential implementation components.
Interested in learning more about how Edmentum solutions can support intervention efforts in your school or district? Check out how our online programs can help you meet the needs of every student!