Photo: Sarah Wiebers, Title I educator, and student Jesus Hernandez

Denison Elementary and Broadway Elementary in Denison CSD were chosen as two of the initial schools to be trained in the C4K-Response to Intervention (Rti) initiative.  Response to Invention (Rti) is now known in Iowa as the MTSS – Multi-tiered System of Supports. The Denison CSD C4K Leadership Team has found this initiative to be complementary to its current collaborative model. The C4K Leadership has received extensive training from the Iowa Department of Education in the implementation of the C4K/Rti initiative.

The intent of C4K is to work more effectively and efficiently as a full educational system to accomplish a few agreed upon priorities. The C4K initial priority focus, collective efforts and resources are focusing on early literacy and closing the achievement gaps, with a goal that every child will be proficient by the end of third grade. The C4K selected this priority focus because of the integral role literacy proficiency plays for success in all other academic and social areas.

Schools in the first phase are encouraged to assess all students in the universal screenings in the fall, winter and spring. This information is another data point to use to improve reading. Denison will also be one of the first schools to implement the assessments in Spanish as a pilot for the Iowa Department of Education.

Denison CSD elementary students in preschool through fifth grade are being assessed in the following universal screenings:
• preschool:  Individual Growth & Development Indicators (IGDIs)
(78 students)

• kindergarten and first grade: FAST Early Reading (314 students)

• second grade through fifth grade: (CBM- Reading) Curriculum Based Measurement, and third through fifth grade: (aReading) Adaptive Reading (611 students)

Marlin Jeffers, instructional coach and external coach for the district, commented that the success of this initiative at Denison CSD is because of the outstanding administrative and teaching staff and high level of technology assistance. He went on to say, “The current model of having academic and behavior interventionists is also an asset to the district and complements the MTSS initiative.“

The Denison CSD administrators have taken the training, as well as assessing students. The administrators are instrumental in the success of the new initative as well as supporting teachers through the training and implementation of the MTSS.The administrators are: Chris Schulz, Steve Meinen, Heather Langenfeld and Scott Moran.

Each building has a technologist that not only works with students on technology skill sets, but also assists teachers in implementation of technology in the curriculum. On the leadership team, they provide insight on data analysis. This technology team consists of Greg Gunderson, Darin Johnson and Seth Young. These technology specialists are available to all staff and students to problem solve in a moment's notice. Technology is a major goal of the district for staff and students.  

Interventionists are also in each building to assist students in academic areas and also social, emotional and behavioral needs. This has proven over time to be beneficial for the success of students. The interventionists are Trevor Urich and Jaynee Ricke.

Having Title I and reading teachers assist through their expertise in reading assessment, data collection and analysis. The Title I and Lead reading teachers are: Cheri Emery, Alyssa Rihner, Steph Schmadeke, Diane Ettleman, Tara Malcom and Sarah Wiebers.

Jaynee Ricke, internal coach, also commented that the FAST and IGDIs testing system has worked at Denison Elementary Schools for many reasons:

“Teachers have met in grade level groups weekly to discuss student progress, analyze data and make instructional decisions to meet the students’ needs in all areas of the curriculum, as well as socially and emotionally. We have been meeting in grade level groups for the past 12 years. The FAST and IGDI results provide us another picture of skill level of our students and provide a systematic approach to provide interventions to improve student achievement. The data is also highlighted during our PLC’s time and SAT meetings where we discuss all data collected to provide assistance for student success.”
Deb Krager, a facilitator at Northwest AEA, has observed that the State of Iowa’s MTSS has been effectively implemented at the Denison Community Schools (K-5).

“The K-3 and the 4-5 student assistance teams have been able to consider the fall universal screening data when determining instructional interventions at the targeted and intensive levels," Krager said. "The district has also developed and adopted their own three-tiered system where each level is clearly defined with specific criteria to follow at each tier. The SAT team uses the visual tiered system as a way to monitor student progress by using a student data wall.”
This systematic process uses evidence-based curriculum and instruction. By using the MTSS universal screening three times a year (fall, winter, and spring), it allows teachers and administrators to monitor student progress at a local level, as well as at a state level as the year progresses.

The universal screening data collected also allows progress-monitoring data to be collected and used to guide instruction. Winter testing that Denison conducted is now being used to analyze the student data to make more instructional decisions.