Although widely acknowledged for more than a decade as critical to student success, the use of data in the decision-making process is still far from being maximized in schools. It’s true that an effective Response to Intervention (RTI) system incorporates frequent assessment and progress monitoring at each phase of implementation, but too often, the use of this data to inform decisions at multiple points within the intervention process is not a given. Schools and districts need to ensure that every decision is supported with clear and comprehensive data. 

Clear and Consistent Assessment Procedures

Implementing an intervention program with fidelity is one of the most challenging aspects of RTI, as it requires schools to create a clear statement of outcome measures and a comprehensive system of coordinated assessments to track outcomes over time prior to implementation.

In order for data-based decision making to be effective and consistent, it is critical that assessments be uniform—teacher-to-teacher variations can undermine the integrity of data used to make decisions about the RTI process and the interventions used.

RTI Core to Data-Based Decision Making

RTI can be seen as a slope, which, when overlaid with the clearly-defined expected outcomes of a student, can aid teachers in evaluating whether instructional experiences address the needs of all types of learners, and whether the student is making sufficient progress. If the student does not respond as expected, further individualization and differentiation must be implemented. RTI is an essential component of data-based decision making.

Challenges to RTI Intervention

There remain central challenges to effective RTI intervention, the primary ones being cost, time, and classroom configuration.

Solutions include the use of a multi-stage universal screening process to more accurately identify students truly at risk and in need of early intervention. Studies have also found “fast tracking” students from Tier 1 to Tier 3 intervention based on the significance of academic deficit to be effective. This can reduce cost by eliminating a likely-ineffective Tier 2 intervention.

Finding time for staff to receive adequate training, implement assessments, provide instruction, and monitor progress within an RTI program is also a significant challenge for schools. Research shows technology-based instruction, where progress and reports are automatically tracked, can free up staff to focus on progress monitoring and focused data analysis.

Finding flexibility in the class schedule to accommodate Tier 2 and Tier 3 intervention alongside regular classroom instruction is also a significant challenge, particularly at the high school level. In addition, when a Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention is allocated as a separate elective, some students may progress beyond their targets on one or more outcome measures prior to the end of the semester. This either results in an unintentional slow-down of the student’s progress/potential, or requires the teacher to gather additional materials to teach to the student’s level until the semester is finished.

How Ascend Math Facilitates Data-Based Decision Making

When it comes to clear and consistent measurement of student progress, Ascend Math provides a variety of mechanisms by which achievement of outcomes and fidelity of implementation can be measured and documented:

  • Easy-to-use reports compare student time on task and learning objectives mastered.
  • Other formative reports track post- test versus pre- test scores to ensure that students achieve math competency as described in individualized learning plans.
  • Summative assessments are aligned to local and state standards and high-stakes assessment objectives, allowing Ascend Math to be integrated seamlessly into a school’s or district’s overall RTI program.
  • The automaticity of administration ensures that data gathered are accurate, consistent and descriptive. Further, Ascend’s reporting tools enable school staff to view and document student progress to make productive, agile decisions about student placement and intervention effectiveness.

Ascend Math’s Activity Reports also assist educators in decision making. These reports enable school staff to view individual student and group progress and compare those with the goals of the RTI program. For example, a school may set student usage guidelines for students who are borderline between Tier 1 and Tier 2 intervention, or another for strictly Tier 2 students, and yet another for Tier 3 students.  At any time, the Ascend Math Activity Report allows school staff to monitor and document each student’s (and groups of students’) status with respect to these guidelines. 

Challenges to RTI are addressed by Ascend Math as well. For instance, the program’s multi-stage universal screening process is designed to precisely identify students truly at risk and in need of intervention, which allows schools to save money by immediately assigning students to the specific level of intervention they need.  

Being technology-based, Ascend Math also helps solve the problem of time. Because students are able to work independently, they are less in need of constant monitoring, which allows teachers to focus on individual student data and what decisions need to be made for each learner. 

Ascend Math also requires little start-up training for teachers and school staff, and automatically generates reports, reducing the amount of time needed to view, analyze, and act on data. In addition, students can access the program anytime, anywhere, reducing the time burden on busy school staff.

One of the important distinctions of Ascend Math, as compared to other programs, is its extremely flexibility. If a student should progress beyond their target goal before the end of the semester, the program accommodates their accelerated learning with more advanced lessons, rather than forcing them to stay on hold until the end of the semester.  

Ascend is also flexible enough to be used in a variety of circumstances. Schools have successfully used the program in second math electives, math labs, and block periods, among other models.

With Ascend Math, consistent results have been achieved across a range of use models in elementary, middle, and high school levels, which makes it easy to fit into any school schedule.

Learn more about the Six Critical Components of a Strong Math Intervention Program and the Ascend Math Model.

Part 6 of this series will focus on Intervention Fidelity/Integrity.

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