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When schools put forth their best effort to educate students and the student does not learn should the school give up on that student? The answer should be an overwhelming no! If we truly believe that all students can learn then the educator must continue to provide support for students throughout their education. About 33 percent of incoming freshman, students do not graduate high school. It is up to the school to have a support system in place to aid students who are not meeting the criteria set by the curriculum. Learning support programs reflect a school's commitment to the successful learning of all students, as well as the belief that all students are natural learners, that any difficulties they encounter are probably short-term and can be addressed with little fanfare (Danielson, 2002). Support systems should be put in place that will ensure students will stay on track for graduation. The support system will require district support, be user friendly, have real time data systems that will allow schools to implement early warning systems and tiered interventions for struggling students (Mac Iver, 2010). In creating a successful school system, the principal must determine what kind of support will be good for struggling students. As the needs of the students become more intense, the range of interventions that are provided for them also become more intense and individualized (Baker &Brown, 2006). In a pyramid support model, support can range from students that are failing to students that are gifted. The term Pyramid of Intervention (POI) refers to the system of support that a school provides to students that are having difficulty keeping up. It is a systematic approach which allows schools to give appropriate instruction all students in a more sequential, effective and timely manner so they can experience success in school (CCPS, 2009).
As schools are getting more and more diverse and we move closer to achieving higher education for all students, we know now that students do not learn academically or behaviorally in the same manner. A POI model provides a system- wide and school-wide framework to integrate and align instruction, assessment, and databased decision making to improve student outcomes (CCPS, 2009). POI can address problems in students before they fail. By collecting data on the individual student research, based interventions help the students move closer to achieving success.
Development for a School
When developing a pyramid of intervention there are three things that must be done in order to achieve success. Getting everyone to espouse the belief that all students can learn would be the first thing to do. There are still teachers who have the belief that they did all they can and want to give up. Using a POI method, these teachers must embrace the notion that all students will succeed. Second, everyone must be in agreement of the type of methodology to be used. And finally, a team needs to be assigned to take on the task of building the pyramid. Collaboration is the key to building a successful pyramid. The ultimate goal for teachers working together to plan the day-to-day instructional program is for all students to successfully learn the curriculum (Danielson, 2002).
In 2002, Skyview Elementary School, a school system in Thornton, Colorado decided to use a pyramid of intervention after reviewing the test scores and finding that a majority of students were below proficiency in reading and math. What was amazing with Skyview was despite having a high rate of ESL students along with a growing rate of free and reduced lunch population, they saw an increase between 25-29 points on the state tests for fifth grade math, writing, and reading, just one year later after using POI. The responsibility fell on a team of eight teachers who worked collaboratively with teachers and administration to come up with a four tiered pyramid process. In the beginning, they had to sort out what was working and what was not. They brainstormed ideas and suggestions for different interventions. Once they came up with the new interventions, they categorized them by strength. A system of tracking students and interventions had to be created. The four levels of the pyramid starting at the bottom were; (1) identify and diagnose student needs, (2) grade level intervention, (3) vertical team support, and (4) cross-grade and volunteer support.
Breaking Down the Levels of Skyview Elementary
Level one is to diagnose and identify student's needs. This can be done through the use of assessments. Curriculum and assessments fully define what students will fully learn; where curriculum lays out what students will learn, assessments show what they have learned (Danielson, 2002). Skyview staff spent two days diagnosing and sharing information on every student. they used students past performances, consulted with parents, principal, and the district for support to identify the students in need of help. Grade level and small group tutors are used to aid the students. Level two is grade level intervention. If students need additional help, the teacher relies on the use of grade level teams. Meetings are held during the school day to focus on the specific needs. District coaches work with the entire grade level to identify best practices. Level three is vertical team support. This level targets specific skills students might have missed in previous grades. The vertical team of teachers travels with the student as they advance throughout the school. All teachers know about the student so when the next teacher gets the student he or she is ready. Log sheets are kept for successes and future interventions with specific timelines. Level four is the cross grade and volunteer support. This support is the most intensive providing support before and after school through homework clubs, small group instruction, high school and college students, parents, buddy systems and one on one counseling.
This pyramid of intervention works because it is a collaborative effort with the staff, parents and outside sources. Every teacher was fully committed to the intervention as well as the student. Successes for the student are monitored from day and continue throughout the student's education.
POI, Curriculum, and Instructional Strategies
Curriculum and instruction are so closely related that they are often used as one. The curriculum can be referred to as the roadmap of learning which focuses on important skills that are needed to be productive in society. Instruction is the creation and implementation of purposefully developed plans for the teaching of curriculum content (Yates, 2000).
When designing a pyramid of intervention (POI) a school should use the same method as most schools do in designing a curriculum. Most experts use a design down approach when designing a curriculum; they begin with the end in mind and design the curriculum backwards from there (Danielson, 2002). That end of course would be to graduate and produce highly educated skilled members of society. Unfortunately, achievement has become so closely tied to test scores that educators sometimes lose perspective of the larger goal of graduating all students prepared for postsecondary training leading to a career (Mac Iver, 2010).
POI provides the framework that aligns the instructional strategies with a standards based curriculum. These strategies are designed to be specific for that student using differentiated instruction, which involves in school and out of school instruction.
Teachers are a major part of a pyramid of intervention. If the teacher is weak or ineffective then no plan for intervention will work. If the teacher has not adopted the new mission that all students will be proficient then POI will not work. If the teacher is not good with working with teams then POI will not work.
The Egyptians built pyramids in layers. Each layer is built to support the other. The first layer is the base, which contains most of the stones, and the top contains the least amount of stones, which are hardly needed. Because of this design, pyramids that are built 4000 years ago still exist today. The reason pyramids still exist is they have a good base or foundation that all the other bricks rest on. In a school, system if the foundation is weak then the rest of the school will be weak. The first thing a school would need to do is get their mission statement in order. This should be a collaborative effort involving all stakeholders. Once that is in order the school can work on getting all teachers to accept that all students can learn. Professional development should be mandatory for teachers and administrators. The professional development should include in addition to instructional strategies, assessments, data writing and interpreting, team building, and curriculum design.