In Trenton, N.J., a district with 12,000 students, administrators are working with Spectrum K12 to build the data system they’ll use to manage their growing RTI initiative. David Weathington, assistant superintendent for student services, and Rosario Casiano, an elementary school principal, discussed their data initiative with Achievement Today.
What is the background of Trenton’s RTI initiative?
Weathington: The district began Response to Intervention approximately three years ago. We had a significant amount of our students who were slow learners and we needed a process that would help us improve student achievement across the board. What we really needed to do was utilize targeted interventions, and we started by adopting RTI at two schools, including Rosario’s. We saw some early success, and we decided to expand RTI district-wide. To do that we knew we had to move away from paper-and-pencil management to an electronic system.
What were some of the issues that drove you to that realization?
Weathington: It is difficult when you’re using paper and pencil to track a complex system; you lose students in the process. You need to know exactly what interventions are going to be put into place, exactly what the test scores are, and you need a stored profile for the students. Now we’re working on a web-based solution with Spectrum K12 that’s a tracking system that is pretty concise and gives us valuable information.
What kind of data will be accessible from this system?
Casiano: We’ll have all results from NJ ASK and other standardized tests. We’ll have the reading level for all students. We’ll have access to any discipline problems. But more importantly, we are going to be able to input the resources, the skills and the strategies that we are using to help the students. So we’re going to know right away whether a strategy is working or not, based not just on observational information but on concrete data.
How will the capabilities of this system benefit the district and its students?
Weathington: From my department, I can see those kids who potentially could be eligible for a Child Study Team Evaluation. Of course, the whole idea is we want to reduce the amount of kids who are being classified in the district, and we think this is a great tool to help us do that. At the individual student level, there are different strategies that we can derive from the data that will help us provide the appropriate programs for them. If a child has comprehension difficulties or visual motor integration problems, we’ll have the information that will allow us to decide on the best interventions.
Do you expect this new data management system to help you make intervention decisions more quickly?
Weathington: Yes, because you’re going to know immediately what a child is achieving. If the intervention is not working then you can move on and make sure that they get more intensive targeted intervention rather than waiting it out. Otherwise it might take a whole year of trying this or that before you find out the right solution.
What will this system mean for classroom teachers?
Casiano: When we have all the information in the database, teachers are going to be able to look at many, many possibilities and then adopt instructional strategies weekly based on the data. No more guessing. We’re going to know exactly where every child is so when we talk about differential instruction it’s not just “Oh, let’s see what works today.” It’s going to be differential instruction that’s actually going to help each and every child in the classroom.