Scheduling Considerations for RTI at the Elementary Level



When districts or buildings are getting started with RtI efforts, attention in the first year is often directed to the assessment systems, discussions about core and intervention approaches, and how personnel can, and will, be utilized. Over the years, I have learned to add the issue of scheduling to the list of actions requiring early attention and careful construction. When scheduling is not attended to, the other decisions that were made become compromised if full implementation is not realistic.

Careful construction of the master schedule provides clear expectations of time allocation for both core and supplemental instruction. In most RtI models at the elementary level, core instruction should include a minimum of 90 minutes and supplemental instruction should include an additional 60 minutes that can be utilized in part or full for students demonstrating the need for intervention time beyond the core. The following steps have proved helpful when working with buildings of varying sizes and with access to varying resources:

1. Solidifying your decision regarding your model of support. Most buildings elect to use the same model of support across all grade levels. The model of support is important when scheduling because it impacts who is available at what time. Questions that may be helpful to consider include:

• Do the data support the model of support that was selected?
 
• How do IEP's stipulate special education teachers need to be utilized during core instruction and intervention? Paraprofessionals?

• What district policies are in place regarding the use of other support personnel (ELL teachers/aides, at-risk tutors, title personnel)?

2. Locate the district instructional allotment of minutes. Some buildings have been operating under the assumption that the schedule appropriately reflects the expected instructional minutes. Questions to consider include:

• Does our current schedule reflect the expected minutes adopted by the district board?

• Is there flexibility in how we meet the expected minutes (e.g. requirement of 150 minutes weekly for science instruction can be met by having 30 min. of science daily or 75-min. blocks 2 times per week)?

3. Locate the teacher-negotiated agreement pertaining to plan time and break requirements. In addition to needing to ensure permanent building staff have appropriate minutes for planning time and breaks built in to the schedule, itinerant staff need to be assured to have their minutes met in addition to drive time between buildings. Questions to ask:

• Is a common plan time for grade levels desirable?

• Do we have itinerant staff that is only available on certain days and at certain times? If so, the building administrator needs to be in communication with the administrator who shares the itinerant staff during the development of the schedule.

4. Start schedule development by blocking out any non-negotiables. These non-negotiables should be things that are highly unlikely of being able to be changed (e.g., lunch times, P.E. times if the gym is used as the cafeteria, dismissal).

5. Begin with a grade level and work first by trying to accommodate the preferences of the staff (e.g., primary grades often enjoy having reading in the morning, the art teacher may prefer to see all grade levels back-to-back to reduce transition time with material arrangements, the speech pathologist may prefer to pull kindergarten students from a rest period to avoid missing content). Once the master schedule is built across all grade levels, develop a personal schedule for each teacher so he/she can see how their week will look.

6. Present the master schedule to the faculty for consensus with an explanation of how the schedule was built. Ask that each faculty member review and agree to the schedule by a specified date and time. Questions or concerns should be directed to the committee chair or the principal. The committee should be open to revisiting the schedule in light of questions or concerns raised.

Lessons learned over the last several years that may be helpful include:

• Build in 30 of the 60 minutes for intervention for all students. This not only allows time for students needing intervention to receive strategic support, but allows other students to receive time for individualized intervention, which may include research and inquiry time for advanced learners or time for students on track to work on areas of personal interest or general enrichment.

• Think about the intervention approach when blocking intervention time. For example, if a particular intervention program is being used for students needing intense support that requires 45 minutes to implement, determine if these minutes need to be back-to-back instead of broken up throughout the day. In our district, we utilize an intervention program in the lower primary grades that works well when broken up into 20- to 30-minute periods. In the upper primary grades, however, the program is best implemented during a continuous 60-minute block.

• Be mindful of what content is being missed by students needing intense support. Think about the strengths of your interventions in determining the "decision of least loss" (i.e., if your intervention approach is stronger with using expository text in the science realm, try to schedule 30 minutes of intervention time during science and emphasize the science standards as best possible) or by being creative in staggering content area classes so students are not missing the same content area each day.
 
• We have likened the schedule to a house of cards. Our RtI efforts have made us realize that are maturing into a system that is very interdependent on one another and that sometimes our personal preferences have to be set aside in order for student needs to best be met.


    • Do the data support the model of support that was selected?
     
    • How do IEP's stipulate special education teachers need to be utilized during core instruction and intervention? Paraprofessionals?

    • What district policies are in place regarding the use of other support personnel (ELL teachers/aides, at-risk tutors, title personnel)?
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