Juneau schools use data to ensure kids don’t get left behind

JUNEAU — The Juneau School District is using a new approach to help struggling students meet the standards of the district’s core curriculum with a program that tracks students’ academic progress and identifies which ones need extra help.

Bridget Weiss, the district’s director of student services, said the program uses data to categorize students based on their performance. The district can then determine whether students are meeting standards, have a higher level of need or are falling behind.

“It is a program based on the philosophy of identifying students’ needs early and attacking those with special interventions outside of the regular core curriculum,” Weiss told KTOO-FM.

The Response to Instruction program is being used in other schools across the country. A few Juneau schools have implemented parts of the program in the past, but now it is going into effect districtwide.

Weiss said elementary schools used Response to Instruction last year to improve reading skills.

“Some schools are saying, ‘Hey, we really want to spend another year just focusing on reading, because we’re close, we’re not quite there, we really want to get expert at this whole RTI process with reading.’ Some schools are saying, ‘We’re chomping at the bit. We really want to get after math,’” Weiss said.

The program places students into tiers according to their performance. Tier 1 is the district’s core instruction that all students receive and allows educators to evaluate how effectively they are reaching every child. Tier 2 is for kids who have a higher level of need and require “additional time in a small group, adding some instructional methods to what they’re getting in the regular classroom,” Weiss said.

A student who falls under Tier 3 is considered “significantly behind,” which Weiss said means they just need more attention.

If a student doesn’t show improvement after receiving the additional help, the district will consider whether it needs to move them toward special education.

Weiss said the program is a good way to ensure students don’t fall through the cracks.

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