The Iredell-Statesville school district had dabbled in the multi-tiered instructional strategy known as “response to intervention” before it received a federal Investing in Innovation grant to go all in on RTI.
But its scattershot past approach had left some educators skeptical of the strategy. District leaders needed to show that the i3 grant would mean a much deeper and more systematic implementation.
So they dressed up as characters from “Men in Black,” a comedy movie about aliens that features mind-erasing federal agents.
“Forget everything you ever knew about RTI,” they told staff members at the handful of schools tapped to pilot the new strategies—a signal that the district was hitting the reset button on RTI.
More than four years later, Iredell-Statesville is in the last stages of implementing the grant. The i3 money helped nearly every school in the district pinpoint students’ strengths and weaknesses, using a mix of assessments, including North Carolina’s end-of-grade-tests, classroom performance, and a diagnostic tool, financed by the grant.
Schools across the district have rejiggered their schedules to give students time for “intervention”—a chance to work on the skills that are tripping them up the most—or enrichment.
In the classroom, students are often grouped according to the skill they need extra help on, especially at the elementary level.
On a Monday in early May, for instance, students in Tracey Cauble’s 4th grade class at Celeste Henkel Elementary School were all working on language arts. But one group of students was using flashcards to improve fluency, while another was looking up words that were likely to show up on the state’s grade-level common-core-aligned tests. Other students were combing through a nonfiction passage with Ms. Cauble.
In another group—of the highest fliers—students were lying on their stomachs on the floor, their heads buried in The Egypt Game—a book Ms. Cauble’s own children didn’t tackle until middle school.
A version of this article appeared in the June 10, 2015 edition of Education Week as Federal Aid Fuels Multi-Tiered Instruction