Kelly Glick is a school psychologist in the Franklin Pierce School District. Franklin Pierce has partnered with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) as part of an Investing in Innovation and Improvement (i3) Development Grant to provide intensive intervention in mathematics to students with and at risk for disabilities.
NCII: How can school psychologists support the implementation of intensive intervention?
Kelly: As a school psychologist for 4 years, these were questions I also had prior to implementing data-based individualization (DBI) in two elementary buildings. From my experience, the DBI process increases the school psychologist’s need to collaborate with individual students, groups of students, and school and districts’ multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) teams.
At its core, DBI is an adaptation of instructional practices based on the student’s response to intervention…. Sounds easy enough, but to do this effectively, teams must learn to analyze and interpret data, and then find ways to change existing supports based on student needs. School psychologists, however, are uniquely trained in data analysis, and are typically good problem solvers in general. Therefore, it’s important that we act as critical collaborative members of our teams, regardless of where teams are in the DBI process. One of the key ways a school psychologist can support intensive intervention is to help educate the staff with data interpretation, and subsequent decision-making.
I have found my particular support role to vary, sometimes greatly, depending on my team’s needs. For example, in a meeting at one building, I may need to clarify how to interpret percentiles or cut scores. In another, I may be collaborating about an appropriate rate of improvement (ROI) for a specific student on a below-grade-level measure. No matter the task, it is my job to encourage teams to make decisions based on quantifiable data in conjunction with teacher expertise form working with the student. Teams are required to bring quantifiable data to every meeting. Teachers will always be able to offer student insight undetectable by data, but with the availability of data, it makes decision making clearer.
NCII: What role might a school psychologist play in the DBI process?
Kelly: Generally, school psychologists don’t work with students all day, every day or provide academic instruction. We are, however, consistently called upon for individual student cases—generally those that are, or may end up as, special education referrals. Often, this happens in more than one building at a time. It provides the school psychologist a unique perspective that also allows us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. While the school, situation, and specific role in a meeting varies, I find my role to be supporting teams in collecting, interpreting, and making data-based decisions for students on individual, group, and system level.
NCII: What changes have you seen in your schools since you have implemented DBI?
Kelly: After 3 years working with two buildings implementing DBI, I have observed the following positive shifts in my buildings and district:
- From Individual to Group. DBI focuses on individual students, as do many traditional school problem-solving team structures. The difference now with DBI is that teams have naturally started to shift their learning of the individualized problem-solving process to groups of students. For example, if six students in the same small group are referred for DBI, teams begin to ask themselves, “Maybe there is one larger instructional adaptation that could be made that would benefit all six students in the group.” With increased availability of data, we can monitor all students, even those that tend to slip between the cracks. This process has encouraged teachers to become better problem solvers as well.
- Overall Student Outcomes.Through the DBI process, students are provided with interventions matched to their needs proactively. The focus shifts from within student problems (i.e., student X must have a disability because they are not responding to the instruction) to shifts in instructional practices and allocation of resources (i.e., how can we add time/decrease group size/intensify phonics instruction ASAP with or without documentation of a disability). Through this simple shift in focus, we see increased student outcomes, as well as teams engaging in the problem-solving process sooner. A preventative approach, focused on meeting student needs using evidence-based practices, leads to greater academic outcomes for students. I have witnessed increased scores (i.e., screening/CBM, progress monitoring, state tests), fewer special education referrals, and have been able to exit a number of students out of special education services altogether.
- Problem Solving Through Specific Learning Disability (SLD) Identification.In addition to my district’s commitment to the DBI process, the district also decided to transition their SLD identification requirements away from a discrepancy model to a Response to Intervention model. We were the first district to do so in the state of Washington. From a school psychologist perspective, this was essential in ensuring the commitment to implementing DBI for individual students and MTSS for all.
NCII: Has DBI been helpful in the identification process?
Kelly: Yes, DBI has been instrumental. As simple as it sounds, the forms located on your website alone were a huge jump start to ensure we’re all looking at appropriate data. The structure that DBI provides creates a plan based on data literally informs us if the student is responding to the intervention. Using the DBI process for SLD identification is a fluid continuation of problem solving, where the true non-responders are identified for special education services.
NCII: Any final thoughts?
Kelly: I have observed that with the implementation of DBI, there has also been a shift in our schools’ culture. Now, we are working toward proactively adjusting instructional supports for all students, with decisions being made using data. Not only does this lead to greater student outcomes but, in my opinion, this also leads to far more efficient and positive teams as well. This process has not evolved without work. Many times, we have had unreliable data or placed students in interventions that have not worked and find ourselves adapting the interventions. With student outcomes on the line, however, the stakes are too high to give up.