ONALASKA, Wis. -- Reading is a fundamental skill when it comes to learning. That's why the state of Wisconsin has adopted a federal initiative called Response to Intervention, or RtI, as a way to respond to the needs of every child in our state in subjects like reading.
All three elementary schools in the Onalaska School District began implementing RtI a few years ago. But this month, Northern Hills Elementary has been chosen as one of six schools to lead the state on how to successfully use the RtI program.
"It's a sense of accomplishment," said Curt Rees, Northern Hills Elementary School principal. "All of our teachers across the district, and certainly in our school; we work hard to provide a great education for our students and just a great resource for families."
"Northern Hills has been doing this work," said Heidi Thuli, academic coordinator for the Wisconsin RtI Center. "We're just here to help support them and to be able to show it off to the rest of the state."
Thuli's team of professionals met with the school's principal and a few staff members to discuss the goals of this program.
"In the federal language, RtI was initiated as part of special education language to say we, as a nation, need to reconsider the way we're determining if a student has a disability, specifically a learning disability," said Thuli.
But in the state of Wisconsin the program is much more than that.
"It's truly about having a responsive system for all kids," said Thuli. "Kids below benchmark, at benchmark or above benchmark."
So, as a parent you might be asking yourself what's changed and how does this affect my child's education?
"In past practice, we might have had multiple systems happening in one building, or we had individuals making decisions for their kids based on their classroom or their own best judgment," said Thuli. "Now, we have a system that says we're going to have one system that works for all of our kids."
And according to Northern Hills Principal Curt Rees, this should be a reassuring message to parents.
"We have a better understanding of what kids know," said Rees. "The science of assessment has changed. So, we can quickly understand what a kid knows, where they need help, and just put those practices in place right away."
"This is a way to say, collectively, we're going to look at this data, both quantitative and qualitative, to make decisions for kids in a much more systematic way," said Thuli. "So, all kids experience the learning in a similar fashion. And that we respond in a similar way when a student is struggling or a student's above benchmark.