Establishing a Pyramid of Interventions: Determine, Define and Organize

When first establishing a school’s pyramid of interventions, it is important to first determine what supports and interventions are already in place, focusing on what the school already has, rather than what it does not. Schools already have a number of interventions happening that have not traditionally been viewed through the lens of a pyramid approach. As Buffum, Mattos and Weber (2009) remind us, “Historically, special education has utilized programs that have a strong research base, even when students may lack a diagnosed need in the area that the program targets. These programs should be adapted and reformulated for targeted intervention.” (p. 56, italics in original). In workshops and presentations, we have argued that this doesn’t need to be a convoluted or complicated process. By following the very simple workshop design detailed below, schools can begin to envision their own pyramid of interventions, specific to a focus area.

1. Determine the focus – the focus for the pyramid can be established in a number of ways. It may be guided by an analysis of data, to determine the area in most urgent need of attention. For instance, we have worked with schools where their data indicated a need to focus on the literacy achievement of students. We have also worked with other schools where school-wide data pointed towards supports and interventions related to student behavior.

The focus of the pyramid could also be determined by a school’s current area of strength, in order to gain confidence in constructing a pyramid. Knowing that a number of supports and interventions are already in place can assist in developing a comprehensive pyramid of interventions and provide a quick win for a school before later tackling more pressing areas of concern.

The school may also determine that a particular area of focus is appropriate for one set of grades while another is best suited for a different set of grades. We have experience in a school where the K-3 staff focused their efforts on devising a system of supports and interventions related to literacy, while the grades 4-6 staff placed their attention on broader academic skills.

Typically this focus area is determined before the workshop, either by administration, a leadership team or in alignment with a school’s improvement goals.

2. Ask “What are we already doing?”

In small groups, staff are asked the question “What do you do in your classroom or do we do in our school when a student struggles in our area of focus?” In their groups, they brainstorm and list all that currently happens as a response when a student struggles in literacy, numeracy, engagement, or whatever the focus area is for the question. The lists that are created are posted for all to see. Time is then provided for staff to ask clarifying questions of anything that is posted. At this point, a school could decide to leave the lists posted for a measure of time, to allow for further addition to the lists or for conversations to percolate prior to proceeding to step three. We have seen schools that have left the lists posted in their staff room for a number of days before returning to them for step three.

3. Organizing into Tiers

Step three places focus on organizing interventions, strategies and supports into defined tiers. Staff are divided into four groups. These groups can most easily be defined as:

  • Best practices for all students in the classroom
  • Differentiated strategies or interventions provided by the classroom teacher
  • Programs or interventions provided by someone other than the classroom teacher
  • Intensive interventions for highest need students

In these groups, staff survey the lists created earlier to determine strategies, practices, supports and interventions that best fit their group’s area of focus. These are written individually on large post-it notes or slips and paper and then grouped together on a wall, to visually organize current practices. For any duplications, discussion follows to determine the best fit (or to further clarify if being interpreted differently).  The following posters have been developed to display, if already envisioning a four tier pyramid of interventions.

Tier 2-4 posters from Jigsaw Learning

The collections of strategies, practices, supports and interventions become the foundation of a school’s pyramid, to be refined, added to and further clarified over time. For schools establishing a three tier pyramid of interventions, the first two categories described above become grouped together as agreed-upon best practices, as well as differentiated strategies and interventions employed at the foundational tier of the pyramid.

This exercise will also help to point to next steps. Perhaps the classroom-based best practices are collectively weak and need to be addressed. Perhaps the school overall is deficient in supports beyond the classroom teacher. This early molding of a pyramid of interventions also can point to coaching opportunities, capitalizing on the instructional strengths of staff in the building. If “internal expertise is of more value than what we import” (Schmoker, 2006, p. 118), this can point to areas of internal expertise that can be utilized to improve instructional response across a school.

References:

Buffum, A., Mattos, M., & Weber, C. (2009). Pyramid response to intervention: RTI, professional learning communities, and how to respond when kids don’t learn. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Schmoker, M. (2006). Results now: How we can achieve unprecedented improvements in teaching and learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

NEW VIDEO – Collaborative Response Model Overview

We have developed a new video to review the key components central to the Collaborative Response Model.  Check it out below or on our Youtube channel.

Embedding Time for Collaboration

Few would argue the merits of providing time for collaboration during the school day.  However, determining how to do it is not a simple task.  We acknowledge that creativity is needed when looking to create time for teams – however, there are far too many examples of schools that are making it work for this to be an excuse.

Essentially, embedding time for teams requires flexibility, creativity and a willingness to try something new.  It is important for school leaders to keep in mind the words of Douglas Reeves (2009), who suggests, “one of the least popular actions any teacher or school leader can take is to change the schedule” (p. 93).

Here are some resources and databases we have developed to help schools with the task of creating embedded time for collaboration:

Embedding time for collaboration chart from Jigsaw Learning

References:

Reeves, D. B. (2009). Leading change in your school: How to conquer myths, build commitment, and get results. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Join the Collaborative Response Model Google + Community!

CRM1Although every school is unique and how they establish the structures and processes of a Collaborative Response Model (CRM) is going to be varied and contextual, there is a lot we can learn from one another!  A CRM Google + community has now been established for schools and districts to:

  • network with other educators, schools and districts
  • share resources, templates and samples
  • pose questions and generate discussions

As a private network, it is a great forum to share successes and struggles, as well as learn from each other regarding how we can restructure and reculture our schools to meet the diverse needs of students.

Request to join the CRM Network!

New to Google +?  Watch the video below for a simple overview of how to establish a Google + account and get started!

Reflecting on Cultural Shifts

When establishing a Collaborate Response Model (or engaging in any meaningful reform in schools or districts), meaningful change results in significant cultural shifts.  As schools re-imagine how they are structured to collaboratively respond to the needs of students, the culture shifts from one focused on teaching and instruction to one focused on learning, collaboration and student success.

The following video clip, taken from an interview at Vulcan Prairieview School (K-9 school in southern Alberta, Canada), grade 1/2 Teacher Mrs. Lorraine Kirk , provides insight to the cultural shifts experienced at the school and amongst the staff team as they established and continually refine their Collaborative Response Model.

Reflections from Vulcan Prairiview

Over the past three years, the staff at Vulcan Prairieview School, a K-6 school in southern Alberta and part of the Palliser Regional School Division, have engaged in the work of establishing a Collaborative Response Model.  This video interview with Principal Mr. Shane Cranston and Teacher Mrs. Lorraine Kirk is another addition to the Jigsaw Learning website, to not only share school stories as they engage in the work of establishing a Collaborative Response Model, but also to help establish possible networks of schools working together to meet the needs of students.  These videos will be shared on the newly established School Stories section of the website, found under the Resources section.

This video shares some of the steps taken at Vulcan Prairieview, the lessons learned along the way and advice to other schools engaging in this work to restructure their school to collaboratively respond to the diverse needs of students.

A special thank you to Mr. Shane Cranston and Mrs. Lorraine Kirk for sharing their thoughts, learning and passion for improving schools.

Reflections from St. Catherine’s

In May 2011, we had the opportunity to engage in a workshop with the staff at St. Catherine’s School, a K-9 school in Picture Butte, Alberta, part of the Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Separate Regional Division No. 4.  This video interview with Principal Mrs. Sheri Thomas is the first of many we intend to add over time to the website to not only share school stories as they engage in the work of establishing a Collaborative Response Model, but also to help establish possible networks of schools working together to meet the needs of students.  These videos will be shared on the newly established School Stories section of the website, found under the Resources section.

This video shares some of the steps taken at St. Catherine’s, the lessons learned along the way and advice to other schools engaging in this work to restructure their school to collaboratively respond to the diverse needs of students.

A special thank you to Mrs. Sheri Thomas for sharing her thoughts, learning and passion for improving schools.

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