The Response to Intervention (RTI) model is quickly becoming integral to how schools determine the need for services in reading and math. Under the RTI model, many schools already progress monitor students' growth in precursor skills needed for reading (e.g. decoding, phoneme awareness, letter identification). While these skills are important in determining a child's future reading fluency, they are not adequate predictors of later reading comprehension. Early language abilities that are highly correlated to future reading comprehension and academic success include: Auditory Comprehension, Following Directions, Categorization, and Narrative Language. It is imperative that schools also assess children's development of these underlying language skills. Further, if students are not progressing in these skills, schools need to add language services to support these students.
The Kindergarten Language Benchmark Assessment (KLBA) and Pre-Kindergarten Language Benchmark Assessment (Pre-KLBA research edition available shortly) are perfect tools for measuring growth in these critical language areas three times a year.
During the past two years, Madison School in Skokie, IL has used data from the KLBA and Pre-KLBA in order to monitor student language growth. Our school has also used the data to evaluate program effectiveness.
The pre-school at Madison is a state-funded at-risk program, making it even more important that we prepare our students for academic success. During the 2013-2014 school year, we initiated two major language-related programmatic changes:
1. Earlier Starting Date for Tier 2 Interventions
During the 2012-2013 school year, our preschool program tested all children in the fall with the Pre-KLBA. At that time, the Pre-K teachers did not feel comfortable starting language intervention groups immediately, as they believed that children just needed time to grow. In the winter, all children were assessed again with the Pre-KLBA. Using this data, students were identified for Tier 2 intervention groups using the Language for Learning direct instruction curriculum available from McGraw Hill.
By contrast, in the 2013-2014 school year, Preschool staff agreed to begin Tier 2 groups immediately in the fall for students falling into the lowest quartile of scores, regardless of their native language spoken at home.
Look at the impact of 3 extra months of direct instruction on children's rate of growth who participated in this Tier 2 program!
2. Weekly Teacher-Directed Center Work
During 2012-2013, our preschool was entirely child-directed for the majority of students. Children with specific language impairments or other special needs received in-class services. However, these services were provided by pulling a mix of children with special needs and typically developing peers to the side of the room for small group instruction.
By contrast, in 2013-2014, the teachers initiated a "super center" day. All the children in the program rotated through teacher-directed activities led by a teacher, aide, SLP, or OT. The overall IEP minutes of service remained the same, so this did not require more time from special educators. However, now children received direct-language interactions with adults for more time, as the regular education teachers and aides also led groups. The additional benefit is that children without identified special needs also received differentiated instruction from specialists.
Look at how this impacted the language skills for children in the entire program!
When spending time with kids on a daily basis, we, as teachers, often don't notice language growth. This is because change is often subtle. However, stepping back and looking at data can help us determine what we are doing that is helping kids learn. Clearly, our programmatic changes have been effective this year, and the data supports continuing with the changes.
Supporting children in early language development will improve overall academic performance in later years. We've also seen the children receiving extra services become more confident speakers. Previously "shy" children are now raising their hands and contributing in class.
For more information on our RTI process for language, click here.