Imagine this: a student starts high school and has difficulty with math. Although he does well in other subjects, he has low motivation in class and forgets when homework is due. Despite the teacher’s best efforts to encourage him and give him extra help, the student continues to struggle. As the semester continues, the teacher runs out of ideas for helping the student and he falls farther and farther behind his classmates.
With the right technology in place, this scenario might never have played out.
For every district, early intervention is key to identifying struggling students. But, early intervention can only be successful if districts have a solid structure in place to show relevant data and act on it quickly.
Take for example, Battle Creek Central High School (BCCHS), located two hours west of Detroit, MI. Struggling with an inconsistent intervention process that didn’t yield reliable results, the high school looked to its student information system (SIS), Skyward, for help. The district discovered Skyward’s Response to Intervention (RtI) solution, which helped educators ensure support and success for their students who were struggling.
The result? BCCHS teachers and staff are more connected to students and responding with effective solutions faster, getting them back on the right path earlier.
"A TEACHER COULD COLLECT DATA ON HIS OR HER 25 STUDENTS FOR A GIVEN YEAR, BUT TRANSFERRING THAT INFORMATION TO THE RECEIVING TEACHER THE NEXT YEAR WAS VERY TEDIOUS."
Establishing a plan
Mitch Fowler, administrative director of student data and innovation, saw the drastic need to shift to a more efficient intervention process. “Prior to Skyward’s RtI, many interventions were tracked on Google Sheets. While using that tool identified important data for interventions, the lasting nature of interventions was limited,” recalls Fowler. “A teacher could collect data on his or her 25 students for a given year, but transferring that information to the receiving teacher the next year was very tedious.”
To really grasp what they needed, Fowler began by identifying his vision for the school’s intervention structure. “Our first step was to map out what intervention looked like using pen and paper. I knew having a solid understanding of what our RtI system looked like without Skyward was key,” Fowler explained. “If we couldn’t articulate what intervention looked like for kids without Skyward, we weren’t going to be able to recognize the added value of Skyward.”
Fowler collaborated alongside BCCHS’s principal, Noah Hollander, to establish a comprehensive plan of what interventions to offer, which exit and entrance criteria should exist, how many levels there should be, and more. The team illustrated the process in a chart
, detailing the separate tiers, behavior infractions, and response strategies.
“Once we had the framework, I was able to develop the code tables and demo our intervention process,” Fowler stated. “We worked with interventionists and teachers to understand how and when to enter RtI referrals and actions, and then went through special training to understand the data mining process.”
After extensive preparation, BCCHS finalized their plan with Skyward’s RtI solution. This element of the Student Management Suite allowed behaviors and interventions to be recorded and visualized while pulling information from other solutions, such as grading, to create a watch list which was maintained in Skyward.
"WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO PLAN BETTER FOR STUDENT NEEDS… THIS HAS HELPED US REDUCE OUT OF SCHOOL SUSPENSIONS BY 20% FROM THE 2016-17 SCHOOL YEAR TO THE 2017-18 SCHOOL YEAR."
Since implementing a proven RtI solution, staff have access to a comprehensive system that develops and tracks interventions, helping them take a holistic approach to working with individual students. As a result, teachers and staff have added a new level of consistency to their intervention strategy. Teachers have not only developed plans to support students based on interventions, but they also include the student and parents or guardians in the conversation around progress toward goals.
RtI also assisted in formalizing the structure of support between interventionists, teachers, students, and parents, helping decrease exclusionary practices and keep students in school. “We have been able to plan better for student needs at a classroom level and decrease the number of severe behavioral issues for individual students. This has helped us reduce out of school suspensions by 20% from the 2016-17 school year to the 2017-18 school year,” said Fowler.
BCCHS can now document, collaborate, and monitor the progress of behavior, academic, and attendance interventions, thanks to the collaboration with their SIS.
"I THINK DISTRICTS NEED TO IDENTIFY SMALL, QUICK WINS WITH ANY NEW SOFTWARE AND FOCUS ON THOSE FIRST. SKYWARD FOLLOWS THE SAME LOGIC."
Moving forward, other schools in the district are becoming more intrigued with the work Battle Creek CHS is doing. Fowler hopes that eventually their RtI model will be rolled out district-wide, but for now the school plans to implement their RtI plan to all buildings for attendance interventions.
BCCHS will also continue to use core Skyward SIS features. “We hope to boost our use and understanding of attendance and behavior reports with principals and instructional leaders in the building.”
From expanding their RtI plan to exploring Skyward’s central components, BCCHS remains confident its partnership with Skyward will continue to flourish.
What advice would Fowler give to other districts looking at Skyward? “Start small and simple. Skyward is extremely powerful,” he noted. “I’ve got a good friend who likes to use car analogies – I’ll use one here. Skyward is extremely powerful under the hood, however, I’m not a car person, so if I can’t even change the radio station, I’m not going to care what’s under the hood. I think districts need to identify small, quick wins with any new software and focus on those first. Skyward follows the same logic.”
Fowler adds, “I really appreciate Skyward’s culture. Their willingness to listen to customers and constantly push out improvements makes us truly appreciate the partnership we have created.”
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