A pair of glasses sitting on top of papers

Student Scheduling Software and Beyond: How to Meet the Challenges of RTI at the Secondary Level

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Schools all over the country are seeing the need to step up their game and provide students with a more personalized learning experience. In most cases, this calls for a change in the school schedule. Many schools have opted to make their schedule more flexible. Whether your school has implemented a Response to Invervention (RTI) program, an advisory period, or perhaps a blend of online and in-class learning, scheduling can be a challenge.

One solution can be finding software that eases the scheduling burden. In addtition, there are three things you can do:

1. Analyze your student data

2. Make changes based on that data

3. Increase communication between staff and students

We'll get into these topics a bit later. For now, what changes are some schools making to their schedule? Let's talk a little bit about RTI.

What is RTI all about?

            A truly ingenious way of delivering content to a student, RTI is a three-tier program – if you’re not familiar with it, picture it like a pyramid. Students on the bottom of the pyramid, or Tier 1, represent all students in the core curriculum. The instruction they receive should be personalized for their needs, and be screened to identify problem areas. Tier 2, or the middle of the pyramid, represents students who may be struggling with the core curriculum, and level of instruction/attention they are receiving in Tier 1.  Again, their instruction is personalized, helping them make progress.

            If students are still struggling in Tier 2 and need additional help, they move to the Tier 3 level of instruction. This will be very focused instruction, targeting the areas they need help. In addition to this, this program helps to prevent problems from starting or developing further, hence the name Response to Intervention. This setup allows for all students to receive the attention they need, be it academic or emotional.

            But it’s not always easy. Imagine this. A school wants to use an RTI program to give their students more focused attention, whether they are high or low on the achievement scale. A time slot is set aside for students to spend additional time with a selected teacher to receive either extra help in a subject, or time to learn more about something that interests them.

So What's the Issue?

            Let’s say a public high school decides to adopt this program. This school has 600 students, grades 9-12. How can you possibly keep track of all of those students, and make sure they’re going where they’ve been assigned? It’s easy to see the challenge. Some have tried keep up with spreadsheets, or simply using paper hall passes. Talk about a lot of paperwork! The amount of time spent keeping these records organizing is immense. Added to that, how can you ensure students are indeed going where they were scheduled? Often times, teachers are required to make phone calls to confirm the whereabouts of students. It’s certainly a lot of extra work, and for that reason, sometimes these well-meant programs do not succeed.

            On the other hand, many schools have sought out student scheduling software. It only makes sense that in such a tech driven world, software could manage these complicated processes. But such software can be tricky to find. It can also be hard to find the right tool to fit the right school – in their search, some schools have ended up using staffing software, or scheduling software that certainly isn’t designed for a modern, forward-moving school.

            At Enriching Students, we’ve worked with a lot of schools that have dealt with these roadblocks. And we’ve helped many RTI-based schools find ways to easily schedule students for the personalized time they need; no additional daily paperwork required! But how can students be scheduled successfully, more efficiently... and just plain easier?

Data-Based Decision Making -- 3 Things That Make Life Easier

            There are a few ways you can make the scheduling process more efficient. And even if you don’t use Enriching Students, these principles may help you manage your students more effectively.

            The first is that you need to examine the data available to you. Ever heard of data-based decision making? That’s what we’re talking about. Analyze the data that you have for your current students. What are their strengths and weaknesses? Where do your students need more help? What enrichment opportunities could be provided so that they can grow and add some passion to their learning? What programs could be offered or adjusted to provide students with extra help, and which teachers would be able to provide such assistance?

            Next, apply this data. Turn it into action. Schedule students ahead of time. This will make the whole process easier. In the long run it will save you time. You’ll be able to communicate and confer with other teachers, and students will know where they’re going and why. If you use Enriching Students, you’re able to schedule students for multiple appointments in advance, even locking them into appointments if it’s necessary that they receive help in a certain subject. This software will allow you to analyze the student data that you have, and decide in which areas students need help, or what their interests are. Instead of being burdened down by endless piles of paperwork, you can manage all of your students from one web-based application.

            Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open. Collaboration with other teachers, perhaps even forming small team or groups of staff members in your school, is essential. Some schools have greatly benefited from creating such teams, even saying that these were the key to their success. Communicating about how, when and why you’re scheduling students, the courses and enrichment opportunities that you’re offering or would like to offer, professional development; all of this will contribute to a more organized, unified staff body. In turn, that will lead to a more positive, connected school culture, one that is ready and willing to support its students.

            What truly make all this effort worth it? The students, of course. Offering students a better education is at the heart of reshaping and personalizing the curriculum. All students, regardless of age, are in a different place emotionally and academically. They all have different abilities, and face different challenges. Adapting their curriculum, their schedule, to provide them with a learning experience that will truly allow them to grow IS possible, it just takes a little extra practical thought and organization. Whether it’s selecting student scheduling software that can ease the burden and help you get the job done, strengthening your school team, or both, we hope you can make learning a success for your students!