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Educators like what they see in early literacy efforts

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Approximately 10 percent of Iowa’s preschool-through-sixth grade schools are dipping their toes into the early literacy assessment waters. The consensus? Good.

The schools are participating in Phase One of the state’s Multi-Tier Support Systems (MTSS), which had formerly been referred to as Response to Intervention. Representing 52 districts across the state, Phase One schools were selected to participate based on staff consensus and technological capability. Here are some reactions:

Jessica Burger, principal, Hoover Elementary, West Branch

How will MTSS benefit students?
Students will benefit from improved core reading instruction that are better aligned, more consistent and more protected from interruptions and pull-out services.  More students will receive 100 percent of the core instruction.  As we continue to work through the process, it will also mean a more guaranteed tiered system of services for all students in our building.  
How easy are assessments to give?
The assessments are very prescribed and user friendly.  They have been very easy for teachers to administer.  For grades 2-5, each student only takes a few minutes to assess.  We have selected to have classroom teachers administer the screening to their own students and find this works well for us with substitute coverage.  It could also easily be a support teacher (or a few) that do an entire grade level.  
How do assessment results change educator’s instruction?
The screening data has been very helpful in our Professional Learning Communities work.  The grade levels have been able to have reflective conversations about possible weaknesses in core instruction as based on student performance levels.  The data has also helped us rethink how we currently structure our intervention resources both inside and outside the general education classroom.  We are deeply engaged in building-wide scheduling discussions that are aimed to improve access to the core and efficiently use intervention resources.

Mike Penca, executive director for Learning Supports and Elementary Programs, Mason City schools

How will MTSS benefit students?
MTSS addresses multiple components of the system-literacy curriculum, instructional time and practices, assessments, tiers supports for students, and educators' expectations for learning and collaboration.  Students will benefit from a consistent vision and similar components of literacy instruction from classroom to classroom, school to school, and district to district.

How easy are assessments to give?
Testing with individual students takes 5-10 minutes and is scheduled three times per year (fall, winter, spring).  While the impact on instructional time is minimal, educators receive valuable data to make instructional decisions and identify students' strengths and needs. The technology resources provided by the Iowa Department of Education make it very easy for teachers to practice, certify, and administer the assessments.  Student results are available immediately after the assessments have been completed. This allows teachers and administrators to begin analyzing and responding to the data right away.   

How do assessment results change educator’s instruction?
The assessment data can be used to monitor the effectiveness of our core literacy instruction at the classroom, district, and state levels.  The MTSS process includes reflective questions for teachers and leadership teams to consider regarding instructional time, curriculum expectations and materials, instructional strategies, and monitoring the effectiveness interventions.  The data can also be used to identify individual students who need additional supports.  

Barb Grell, principal of Kreft Primary School, Lewis Central Community School District

How will MTSS benefit students?
MTSS provides a consistent way to make data-based decisions. Progress monitoring provides a quick means to determine if interventions are effective. Teachers spend less time on assessing and are more able to put the focus on instruction. The screeners indicate students at risk. Follow up data can be collected using diagnostic assessments to dig deeper. Assessments tap into both auditory and visual stimuli (phonemic awareness and phonics) and connect to Iowa Core and Early Learning Standards.

How easy are the assessments to give?
The assessments are individual and quick to administer. The reports can be seen instantly.The assessments are user-friendly and the instructions for administration are brief.

How do assessment results change educator’s instruction?
They demonstrate areas of strength and areas to focus instruction. For example, word segmenting is an area where our first grade teachers need to spend more time instructing during mini lessons. Our teachers have dug deeper into unpacking the Iowa Core Foundational Standards. Teachers are doing the progress monitoring with their students and this has helped them determine the effectiveness of interventions. Teachers are noticing if they are focusing instruction on the right areas of literacy.


Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on October 07, 2015 at 7:45am.