With this school year in full swing, we’ve been excited to see how Schoolwide’s new resources, including our recently released Decodable Texts Teaching Plans, are coming to life in literacy instruction. We are connecting with educators about how these resources support Tier 2 intervention, and providing strategic professional learning opportunities to educators involved in the process.
We sat down with Eileen Hodrinsky, a former elementary classroom teacher, reading specialist, and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, to discuss a critical, yet sometimes overlooked, component of an effective intervention program: collaboration. We hope to highlight opportunities for educators to partner together.
Our conversation with Eileen Hodrinksy follows:
Q: When it comes to Tier 2 intervention, and MTSS frameworks overall, we often talk about the data-driven components. But what about the “people-driven” components to effective implementation of Tier 2 intervention efforts?
Eileen: This is a great place to start this conversation. Yes, data analysis and access to literacy data are crucial components of successful intervention efforts. But in order to source that data, people need to work together effectively. When this happens, data can be more accurately sourced and shared, student progress can be more effectively tracked, and the experience for the students themselves will be far more positive. There should be a feeling of “we’re in this together!”
Q: What kind of collaboration is important for Tier 2 intervention?
Eileen: The ability to develop a plan alongside other key stakeholders is essential. Even if you’re set up with quality research-backed resources, if there aren’t strong lines of communication between the intervention teacher and other educators or influencers involved in the students’ learning, the efforts can easily become disjointed and ineffective.
Just as the Tier 2 reading intervention resources should involve a systematic process, so should the planning. There needs to be a detailed, coordinated plan that clearly identifies the roles and responsibilities of the various parties who are supporting the student. And, intervention teachers should not only have the opportunity to develop the plan collaboratively with other stakeholders but also have time devoted to checking in on that plan’s progress. Rather than being an isolated effort, intervention should lead to progress in the classroom, and even at home!
Q: Who are the key stakeholders when it comes to collaborative planning and communication?
Eileen: It’s important for an intervention teacher or specialist to have opportunities to communicate regularly with the classroom teacher (Tier 1), as well as other support personnel, like speech and language teachers, special education teachers, and any third-party literacy consultants who may have exposure to the students.
The classroom teacher will be able to share the focus of Tier 1 instruction and will have insight and observations about at-risk students’ attitudes and behaviors. They will know how the student is progressing and applying the strategies practiced during Tier 2 intervention.
Administrators also have an important role to play, as they often look at literacy instruction holistically, as well as how intervention efforts fit into overall MTSS frameworks.
Q: What about communication with parents or guardians?
Eileen: This is so important! While students spend a significant time in the classroom, they’re spending far more time at home with parents and guardians. Parents and guardians can help answer questions like: how are at-risk students reading at home? Are they exhibiting signs of disinterest or frustration? Are they attempting to independently problem-solve when they meet with challenging texts, or do they immediately ask for help? But, in order for parents and guardians to play an active, supportive role in students’ progress, they must be brought into the process from the beginning. This goes back to the earlier point about establishing a coordinated effort with all important stakeholders.
As educators, we really need to give families the tools to be active and engaged participators in helping their children close learning gaps. That feeling of connected support in all environments is so important for young learners.
Q: So, with all of the clear benefits in mind, what gets in the way of collaboration and communication?
Eileen: The reality is, all of these stakeholders have their own challenges and priorities. For example, intervention teachers often face barriers like limited access to quality materials for their instruction, or sometimes, limited instructional knowledge, which can leave them feeling unprepared to effectively support students.
Administrators are often looking at their literacy instruction as a whole, including what portion of their students are meeting grade-level literacy expectations and state standards based on multiple assessment measures. They are looking for where there are gaps in the instructional programs. Administrators are also tasked with scheduling and staffing, and ensuring staff is appropriately prepared to lead intervention efforts. Time is often a common challenge shared by all.
While these stakeholders have different perspectives, collaboration and communication can actually be the key to overcoming many of these challenges. If you feel a lack of connection in your school, my advice would be to proactively open those lines of communication.