Leaders at South Hancock and North Hancock elementary schools outlined their schools’ approaches to Response to Intervention (RTI) efforts aimed at assisting students with learning and behavior needs at the Feb. 22 meeting of the Hancock County School Board.
South Principal Jennifer Howe said the school has implemented several efforts to meet the needs of all students across all grade levels. Intervention specialists have been added at the school, and while focused on personal intervention with students, the staffers also work to mentor teachers, especially those early in their careers.
“We focus on academic achievement, but there are other programs to build self-esteem and positivity within our students,” Howe said. “’Girls With Pearls’ and ‘Guys With Ties’ are mentoring programs to build up our students.”
The programs are student-led, while incorporating mentors from staff, Family Resource Youth Service Centers and members of the community. While the primary focus is on academic achievement, students also come into contact with potential role models in a stable environment.
Another outreach program is “Girls On The Run,” in which students meet twice a week for a run. The program will end in May with the participants running in a 5K in Louisville.
“Students are sponges and absorb so much,” Howe said. “We remain focused on identifying students who have essential needs. Some of our fifth-grade students are struggling in missing in-person instruction in third and fourth grades. These conversations with teachers are hard ones to have, but it makes a difference.”
Howe said tangible progress when seeking MAP testing improvement requires patience and commitment.
“It’s about the small steps,” she said. “We are not going to see huge gains in just a few months.”
The school also uses quite a bit of positive reinforcement with students, such using “blings” on clips – a visual representation of positive outcomes – as well as “Star slips” and assembly recognition of the achievements of students.
North Principal Kelly Moore said student expectations are posted conspicuously throughout the school building.
“We cannot take for granted that students will understand our expectations,” Moore said. “We use positive praise which is very specific to behaviors, not just in academics, and our common goals are posted in classrooms. We want to encourage student achievement throughout the entire school.”
The school also uses a “mindfulness room,” which is supervised space where students can escape potential sensory overload situations to “calm down” before a return to class. The room is a comfortable space, filled with objects and activities to help regain student focus.
“We also constantly look at our data to plan the approach to students who have needs,” Moore said. “We set goals for reading and math at each grade level, and monitor the progress of our students. RTI is about getting students the input and intervention they need.”
In the coming weeks, the Clarion will produce a more in-depth look into the RTI and mentoring approaches at North and South elementary schools highlighting the programs and successes within the approaches.
By C. Josh Givens