Are some of your students struggling to comprehend content while others are feeling bored and unchallenged? Through both differentiated and individualized instruction, we as teachers do our best to meet our students' diverse needs.
Unfortunately, despite our efforts, we cannot meet all of these needs during classtime. For this reason, it's important to put into place a schoolwide, systematic intervention program to provide students with additional support.
Designing an all-encompassing, closely monitored system of interventions is an enormous but essential task. Such a system requires the attention and effort of the people within the school who know students best. It also requires plenty of what every staff seems to be lacking: time.
To design an intervention system, you have to seriously examine the current system, determining whether current components of the program are actually working or if they exist simply because they've always existed. Second, staff must engage in thoughtful, creative dialogue that produces innovative new ideas and moves you toward the goal of remediating struggling students and enriching successful students. You must create a flow chart of student intervention steps that is consistent throughout the building and understood by both students and teachers.
Collecting and analyzing data is crucial to the success of an intervention program. Perhaps it's time to admit that an old practice no longer serves a purpose. Or maybe data will prove that a new idea is effective. A school should only be putting its time and effort into a system that has proven successful. You can use data to garner support from administration or school board members for further changes, especially if they are ideas that shake up traditional ways of thinking.
Designing an effective intervention system requires looking closely at the type of students you're targeting and their particular needs, while not neglecting the needs of other types of students. For instance, the self-starters in your school who are chugging along just fine may really benefit from extra time in which they can study and complete homework. The advanced students seeking to reach new levels of achievement may need opportunities for enrichment. The failing students may require one-on-one time from their teachers. And then there are the students who simply aren't putting forth any effort. Does your intervention system serve the needs of each of these students?
Your school may wish to develop a targeted study hall program, peer-tutoring opportunities, an advisory situation where students are strategically assigned, a parental academic alert communication system, or more likely a combination of these and other ideas. Or perhaps with some creativity, your school can develop a half-day intervention program for struggling students on a weekly basis.
The key is to take action, rather than talk an idea to death. You can work out the kinks once the system is up and running. If the intervention program is designed in a way that focuses on learning rather than punishment, holds students accountable, and is consistent across the entire institution, you will see failing grades rise over time.
Brad Kuntz teachers Spanish and environmental leadership at Gladstone High School in Gladstone, Ore., and is a 2011 winner of ASCD's Outstanding Young Educator Award.
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