Response to Intervention at Pear Park Elementary School

Elaine Fletemeyer is a Literacy Interventionist-Coach and RtI Coordinator at Pear Park Elementary School in District #51, Grand Junction, Colorado. A graduate of Concordia University, River Forest, IL, Elaine completed her undergraduate work in elementary education. She also earned her Master’s Degree in Special Education through the University of Colorado.  In the state of Colorado, Elaine previously taught in private schools, a charter school (Edison Project—Roosevelt-Edison Charter School in Colorado Springs, CO), and in Public Schools in School District #11, Air Academy School District #20. You can e-mail Elaine at


Pear Park Elementary School is a K-5 Title 1 school and is part of Mesa County Valley School District #51 in Grand Junction, CO.   For the 2011-2012 school year, there are 450 students enrolled. Being a Title I school, we have had up to 3 full-time literacy interventionists/reading specialists, six full-time paraprofessional reading instructional assistants, and one Title I Instructional Assistant who also helps with computer-based intervention programs and assists the RtI Coordinator with clerical work. In addition, we have had two full-time special education teachers, one full-time Speech Language Pathologist, an itinerant School Psychologist, and a full-time ELL-certified teacher. Due to budget cuts, staffing for the 2011-2012 school year changed dramatically. Our Intervention Team was especially impacted by the loss of 5 Paraprofessional Reading Instructional Assistant positions and two half-time Literacy Interventionist positions. 

73% of Pear Park’s student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch. English is the majority language. 7% of the students receive ELL support, and about 10% of our population receives special education services. (This percentage includes Speech/Language only IEPs).

The state of Colorado began requiring a district plan for RtI implementation in the 2007–2008 school year, and it was during that same school year that Pear Park Elementary took its first steps toward RtI Implementation. During that first year (Pear Park’s second year as a new school building in District #51), we had an itinerant RtI Coordinator who helped us with the initial phases of planning and goal-setting for the future. It was a slow start with a Principal-appointed RtI Team, composed of teachers from various grade levels and several Interventionists and/or Specialists. We did develop an RtI Pyramid that year, and we began to collect some resources for our RtI/Intervention Library, however the number of students that were discussed during monthly problem-solving meetings was quite small in number. There was not yet a clear school-wide vision for our RtI program. In August of 2008, I assumed the role of RtI Coordinator along with my ongoing duties as a Literacy Interventionist. 


One of the major contributors to Pear Park Elementary School’s success has been a strong commitment to Response to Intervention (RtI). RtI provides the venue for student-focused team collaboration, problem solving, and instructional planning and development. In spite of budget constraints, we have been able to use available resources and teachers’ strengths to our advantage. Our intervention program and our daily schedule are at the heart and core of student successes. An “Intervention/Options Block Schedule” also allows for necessary uninterrupted core instruction time. A considerable amount of intense, yet creative scheduling contributed to a successful daily routine that works for staff and students alike. Ongoing, consistent communication between teachers, interventionists and support personnel has provided the backdrop for successful blending of core curriculum with intervention programming and service delivery for students in all sectors of the RtI Pyramid.

Strong administrative support provides the needed leadership and foundation for positive involvement school wide. Staff and students are interacting with leadership on a continuous basis. An open door policy and a very-visible principal’s presence provide an encouraging setting for positive communication.   

Our staff development sessions provide targeted training for areas of need. We have presented book studies, videos, and personalized trainings pertaining to principles developed by researchers and programs such as: Richard Allington, Fountas and Pinnell, Regie Routman, Daily 5, Reading Recovery, Six Traits of Writing, Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Approaches, and other local specialists. We aim to support teachers, whenever and wherever, answering their questions, “coming alongside” to assist and coach with ideas for supporting instructional approaches, data-use, and documentation.
Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) is incorporated on a daily basis in all facets of school activities (lunchroom, playground, hallways, bus areas, sidewalks, and all types of classrooms). Our mascot is a Panda and our slogan, “Panda PALS are polite, responsible, safe, learners,” is posted in every classroom. (PALS stands for Panda Pals  Are Responsible Learners Safe) A school-wide, consistent rewards system is built into the fiber of our building. Students in every classroom earn the privilege of becoming a photographed “Panda PAL of the Week,” and everyone has the opportunity to earn “Panda PALS Notes” for positive performance behaviorally or academically. These notes can be traded for actual reward items at our Panda PALS store. Panda PALS recognition is noted throughout each day all around our campus.

Each grade level professional learning community (PLC) teaching team is asked to set goals for their students at the beginning of the year, and at the end of each quarter. Goal setting is inherent in the STAR progress monitoring programming and it is embedded into our RtI PLC conversations. In addition to the formal RtI meetings, the grade level PLC teams designate one planning period per week to problem-solve and discuss goals, strengths, weaknesses and current needs of students within their particular grade level.

It is the combination of all these elements that has contributed to our school’s positive day to day environment along with documented short-term and long-term academic growth.  

Tips for RtI Success:
  • Build on what has worked and/or proven to be successful in the past.
  • Listen to team members and problem solve together (strong collaboration).
  • Use resources and “teacher-strengths” present within the building.
  • Follow-up on scheduling process—how the intervention blocks are working out, etc.
  • Strong administrative support, involvement, and collaboration
  • User-friendly processes. Support teachers with documentation issues. (Use and refine workable electronic processes, etc.)
  • Provde staff with electronic access to RtI student files. This saves time and expands the capability of attending to RtI processes.  Teachers and specialists can then use their available time slots (in addition to RtI Meeting time) to attend to individual students’ files/plans.
  • Set goals (grade level and school-wide).
  • Continued staff development, especially targeted training for areas of need.
  • Communication, support, shared vision, and celebrations are a must.


Progress to Date

The key elements of the current Pear Park RtI framework are rooted in a communication and problem-solving process that began in the fall of 2008. The following is a summary of progress made during the last 3 years:

Priorities were set for RtI Year 2, and they included forming an RtI Team (composed of the Principal, RtI Coordinator, one teacher from each grade level along with a Special Education Teacher, School Psychologist, Counselor, and several Interventionists). This Team met twice a month at the beginning of our school day and prior to students’ arrival (8-8:45AM). Primary RtI program elements for this school year included:

Student-focused meetings had a defined plan/agenda, priority was placed on shared input regarding the student of concern’s current status, strengths/needs, relevant data, and intervention plans. Notes were taken and shared for ongoing use or reference. 

In addition:
  • Required documentation was completed for each student.

  • Parent contact and involvement was required and documented. Parent meetings were scheduled

  • More information was gathered regarding the District’s expectations for standardized RtI documentation, processes and procedures. (More interaction with District-Level personnel occurred during this year).

  • A “walk-to-intervention” model was the primary means of service. RtI interventions occurred during a pre-set, required “Option/Intervention Block” which had been scheduled for each grade level. During this 45-minute Option Block period, special services such as Speech/Language, Special Education Resource services, and ELL instructional support were provided. 

  • Coordinator continued to communicate regularly with teachers and interventionists. This communication provided the backdrop for stronger teamwork and the positive program development that would occur in the future.

  • Emphasis was placed on baseline and subsequent performance levels in literacy.  

  • RtI Schoolwide Tracking Spreadsheet was developed and completed at the end of each quarter. Using classroom performance data, teachers ranked each of their students in one of the 3 RtI Tiers, and also in 3 Zones within both the Red and Yellow RtI Tiers. This allowed teachers to quickly track students’ growth.

  • At the end of the ’08-’09 school year, the team evaluated accomplishments, strengths, and weaknesses of our RtI program. We concluded that the following year, we needed the entire staff involved in RtI meetings, and further refinement and support was needed in the area of completing District RtI forms, Progress Monitoring, and Interventionist-Teacher communications.

Core Components for this school year included:

  • Clear Understanding of a Problem Solving Model by all staff

  • Schoolwide Tracking/All students were part of  our Pear Park RtI model

  • Grade Level RtI PLC’s. Each grade level team attended 2 RtI mtgs.per month using the same time frame as used in ’08-‘09.  One meeting was designated as grade level only, and the second meeting included a vertical team composed of all teachers from either primary or intermediate levels along with all specialists involved with students being discussed. RtI became our main focus, and no other teacher-committees were required. We also had early dismissal on Wednesdays, which left two hours every week for collaboration. Teachers had a 40-minute block of planning time four times a week, and this time was often used  for common team planning where grade-level teams look at data, intervention groupings, etc. An Intervention Team was formed, and this team met twice a month during a lunch period to discuss student progress, intervention effectiveness, data review, and present intervention training/development.

  • Used a school-wide research-based Intervention Model (Linda Dorn’s Comprehensive Intervention Model).

  • Research-Based Interventions (Used recommendations from George Batsche and the Florida Center for Reading Research). These included pull-out and push-in small group instruction, computer-based interventions, Intervention block scheduling, coaching, and co-teaching, and demonstration lessons.

  • Computer-Based documentation/files (All student RtI files were converted to electronic files).

  • Ongoing tracking and data collection continued throughout the school year. DRA2 was used as for Universal Screening along with Running Records, and CBMs throughout the year.

  • Emphasis on data for determining “Student Zones” within the pyramid (3 Zones in Red Tier and 3 in Yellow Tier).

  • Professional development in the areas of Literacy, Math, and Behavioral support systems and training for all staff on the school’s RtI Implementation process

  • A practical approach to the implementation of RTI emerged. Supporting teachers, answering their questions, “coming alongside” to assist with instructional approaches, suggestions, and documentation emerged as the deciding factor for success vs. frustration.   

All Core Components from the 2009-2010 school year were retained. Additional refinement occurred in the areas of:

  • Revision of all electronic RtI forms to make them more user-friendly. One of our staff members volunteered to train and assist the team as well as individual teachers with using all electronic RtI components.

  • Teachers documented student status during RtI meetings. (They became the note takers for the problem solving discussions during meetings.)

  • The Intervention Team also took on the responsibilities of being a “Data Team.”

  • New Universal Screening for Literacy was piloted: STAR Early Literacy and STAR Reading were used according to the standards of Renaissance Learning Inc.

  • Progress monitoring data (STARS, DRA Levels, CBM data is available for reference at all RtI and Intervention Team meetings). 

  • Use of a more formal database developed by the School District for referencing District-required data: Universal Screening scores, DRA2 scores, attendance, NWEA scores, CSAP scores, ELL enrollment, and students on IEPs.

  • Further incorporation of PBIS with our academic RtI model.

  • Staff Development continued in areas of Math and Literacy instructional methodologies. (6 Traits, Use of new electronic progress monitoring, etc.)

  • We were able to bring 65+ students through the RtI process during the course of the year, due to our scheduling, our process, and our electronic documentation (which could be accessed at all times by all teachers/specialists who were involved with the student’s instructional process.)

  • Summary of Successes: These were carefully measured by the Schoolwide Tracking Spreadsheet and associated Pie Charts which consistently indicated a significant level of growth in the number of students attaining GREEN TIER status (average level performance) by the end of the school year. DRA2 scores and STAR Reading scores also indicated steady growth for students receiving interventions. Find below the percentages of students scoring in the average or above range at the beginning and the end of the 2010-2011 school year (as measured by Universal Screenings):

Fall 2010 Spring 2011
Tier Designations are based on STAR Reading and STAR Early Lit. Scores                              
Kindergarten 35% GREEN Tier 78% GREEN Tier
1st Grade 65% GREEN Tier 85% GREEN Tier
2nd Grade 60% GREEN Tier 79% GREEN Tier
3rd Grade 50% GREEN Tier 62% GREEN Tier
4th Grade 60% GREEN Tier 70% GREEN Tier
5th Grade 65% GREEN Tier 64% GREEN Tier

For the last 2 school years (2009-2010 and 2010-2011) Pear Park Elementary has been the top performing Title I School within our School District. A strong commitment to providing every learner with the best available instructional support plan will continue to be our goal.  

Due to cutbacks in support personnel for serving at-risk students, we have faced some new and difficult challenges during the 2011-2012 school year. We have continued with the intervention block scheduling; however we have had fewer interventionists and support staff. Thus, we have relied heavily on new and creative support, including broadened computer-based interventions; more coaching and co-teaching; and increased staff development in the area of supporting at-risk learners within the context of the regular classroom. All other core components have served us well, and are still being used.

We are also receiving both continued interest and ongoing affirmation at a district level as pertains to the success of our building’s RtI program! These accomplishments include:

  • Ongoing refinement of our electronic-based RtI documentation system. We’ve incorporated the use of “InfoPath” for our required forms. My colleague, Brett (a 4th grade Teacher and tech guru) and I spent several weeks this summer incorporating all we like best about our current system along with things we wanted to add, delete, or change. We are piloting these forms throughout the year, although there is a strong likelihood that we may go to a district-wide packaged program for documentation next year. Not all schools are blessed to have a technical expert like Brett!

  • Teachers are now very comfortable with the RtI process and are seeing the benefits. It is a striking reminder of how far we have come when we receive students who are coming to us without any RtI records. This is shocking to our teachers, and they are now strong advocates for RtI! Many teachers and/or grade level teams are using their own creative resources to create data-tracking forms for their new students.

  • Most exciting of all: Just before the winter break (December, 2011), we were notified that Pear Park was chosen as one of five nominees for a CDE Blue Ribbon award for the state of CO. This award encompasses and includes all private, charter, elementary, middle, and high schools in our state! We are in the process of completing the required final documentation which is a part of the nomination process. Our RtI program and successes in the area of achievement have been a strong piece for this nomination. The state looked at our building’s records for the past 5 years!  



In conclusion, here are a few words that were recently shared by our Principal, Cheri Taylor, in response to our recent Blue Ribbon Award nomination:

“Our significant gains came from analyzing data and using an RtI approach to determine the needs of all of our students and then change instruction to meet the needs of our students. We implemented a school wide RtI system in 2008, and that allowed us to assess, monitor and discuss each student individually. We then adjusted our core curriculum, as well as our Tier 2 interventions to better meet the needs of our students. As a building RtI team, we discuss data monthly, and we make adjustments for students according to each student’s needs. We ensure that all students are exposed to grade level core content and that they receive additional support when necessary. We also aligned our additional support (literacy/math interventions, ESL, Special Ed) with our core curriculum so that the students received repetition, practice, and support to master the grade level standards necessary to be successful. We organized our school day to better utilize our time, and we ensured that no student was pulled out during core instruction. We determined each staff member’s area of strength, and we partnered the staff member’s strengths with student needs.  We believe that every child is every adult’s responsibility, and that we are each responsible for every child’s success. As a staff with shared vision, we changed our mindset to ‘Every Child, Every Minute, Every Day, Rigorous Learning.’”
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