Data-based Decision Making in Math: Grade Level Core Review Meetings

by Shelby DiFonzo

by Shelby DiFonzo

Using data effectively to drive instructional practices is a critical component of a well-functioning multi-tier system of support. It is vital to analyze student performance data at both the group and individual student levels. Core Data Review meetings are designed to analyze group data at a specific grade level and provide guidance for improving instructional practices for all students at that grade. This coaches Corner describes the math data review meeting process used in the Ontario school district. 

In order to learn more about the Core Data Review process for math, we spoke with Steve Wyborney, an award-wining math teacher and the District Math Coach in the Ontario school district. Mr. Wyborney is a life-long learner whose enthusiasm for teaching is unparalleled.  He received the Northwest Nazarene’s  Alumni Professional Achievement Award in the summer of 2016. When asked during the award ceremony what he loves about his job, Wyborney quickly replied, “Students! Students are stunning, incredible, awe-inspiring learners whose potential can never be contained. I come to work every day to learn, and I am deeply inspired by them.” (Retrieved from:

Mr. Wyborney facilitates grade-level Core Review Meetings at the elementary level. These meetings are conducted three times per year for each grade in each school. The meetings include all teachers at each grade level.  Teachers analyze student data and make decisions to enhance instruction for all students in mathematics.  

The following is a summary of key points from the interview that was conducted on a snowy January day in Eastern Oregon:  

Question #1:  What can you tell us about your grade-level meetings? 
Teachers administer a locally created Common Formative Assessment (CFA) three times a year to every student.  The CFA has a focus on number sense.  Teachers then gather after the CFA is given and work in grade level teams to analyze student work and make instructional decisions regarding student need. By looking at number sense and standards together we are able to detect how we are doing with math instruction.  

Another option would be to build CFAs based on units from the core program that correspond to standards.  However, the problem with that model is that units of study move from one standard to another and by the time you pull everyone together analyze the data, you have moved on to a different unit and standard. For example, if place value is something you cover at the beginning of the year, by the time you analyze that data you have missed the opportunity to improve instruction. In contrast, number sense is a common feature that is continuous across standards. Using a CFA based on number sense allow teachers to apply what they learn from the CFA to instruction as they move forward through units of study on other standards. 

Question #2: How is data-based decision making in math different than in reading?
If you analyze data for a concept that has gone by, a team has no opportunity to improve instruction, but if you analyze data for a concept that is “running through the currents, a teacher can impact those currents.” In reading, teachers address the Big 5 of reading and those skills naturally run through the currents of reading and spiral back throughout the year.  In math, this is not always the case.  The standards progress throughout the year, rather than spiral back throughout different units. Data analysis that includes a spiral review is how you impact student achievement. 

Another way to impact achievement is through student annotation.  This allows teachers to talk about a particular standard, but also talk about the process of student thinking.  In data team meetings, we look at student thinking from pictures.  This allows us to generalize strategies for students across the district horizontally and vertically.  In addition, pacing and professional learning are critical.   

Question #3: How do you react to student data? What decisions do you make in moving instruction forward?
When students are demonstrating instructional gaps, it creates potholes in the middle of a perfect system.  How are we going to react to it? I work with teachers and strongly encourage them to do an additional spiral review that isn’t review through the core, but rather looking at number sense. This is a way to fill those potholes of instruction.  In addition, strong instruction in number sense benefits everyone.  Lastly, students’ benefit instructionally from producing language while working with partners and teachers are able to gauge student understanding from conversations. 

Check out Steve’s blog at and his Twitter account @SteveWyborney. Steve will be offering several presentations on math instruction and educational practices at ORTIi’s Annual Conference, April 27 and 28, 2017, at the Eugene Hilton (

Steve Wyborney

Steve Wyborney

Steve Wyborney is an award-winning teacher and instructional coach from the Ontario School District in Oregon. He is well known for his use of instructional technology, his work with mathematics and his passionate belief in the exceptional potential of every student.  In 2005, Steve was named the Oregon Teacher of the Year.  For more information about math instructional practices, check out Steve’s publications: The 25 Common Core Math Lessons for the Interactive Whiteboard; Week-by-Week Math Review for the Digital Classroom (grades 1-6); Long Division Made Easy; and The Writing on the Classroom Wall.

Sneak Peek at the 2017 Conference Workshops

by Lisa Bates and Sally Helton

by Lisa Bates and Sally Helton

Our Annual Conference, scheduled for April 27th and 28th at the Eugene, Oregon Hilton is fast approaching.  We encourage you to take a peek at the list below of the exciting sessions being offered and register soon!  This conference is open to all – not just ORTIi districts.

The conference is aimed at helping schools and districts gain the knowledge and skills needed to implement practices designed to improve outcomes for all learners.  It will feature Anthony Muhammad as the keynote speaker and Anita Archer as the endnote.  These national experts will also be presenting breakout sessions during the conference.  Their sessions will be among the 90 breakouts focused on improved implementation in the following areas: 
•    Instruction in reading and literacy in elementary and secondary
•    Math at the elementary level
•    Teaming and data based decision making
•    Behavior
•    Professional learning
•    Leadership.  
•    Culture and Equity
•    Interventions
•    Using RTI to determine Specific Learning Disability eligibility

Sessions are available to address the needs of a range of experiences implementing RTI, from beginners to those who have been doing this work for some time.

We will also be hosting a preconference “Actions to Equity” day on April 26th with Sylvia Linan-Thompson, a nationally recognized leader in instruction and assessment of English Learners, as the keynote speaker.  Additional sessions that day will cover a range of topics focused on underserved populations, including ways to systematically provide robust vocabulary instruction, inclusive practices, and effective core instructional practices using data-based decision-making. Participants will have the opportunity to network with the presenters and plan next steps to transfer their learning into actions in their schools.

Click below for a list of sessions grouped by area of interest. We invite you to take a look at the offerings and then join us for ORTIi’s 2017 Annual Conference and Pre-Conference at the Eugene Hilton, April 26, 27 & 28! For more information and to register, visit us at:

2017 Annual Conference Workshops

Using RTI for SLD Eligibility: Moving Beyond the Law to Why We Chose RTI to Serve our Students

by Sally Helton and Jenice Pizzuto

by Sally Helton and Jenice Pizzuto

“…The most important issue is not whether a student is a student with SLD, but what intervention would be provided to ANY student who is significantly discrepant in their reading skills such that it places them at risk for school failure, drop out, life failure.”
(Shinn, 2016). 

At the heart of implementing and scaling an effective, sustainable Response to Intervention (RTI) system, first and foremost is an enduring commitment to serving students needs rapidly and effectively in a team and data-based decision making process. The amendments of IDEA in 2004 formally introduced the legal right for states to utilize and require the use of an RTI process to identify students with a Specific Learning Disability (SLD). Prior to the legal changes in the amendments to IDEA 2004 there was, and continues to be, widespread support for such a change around the US. “…RTI emerged as a reform movement to provide more effective early intervention in general education for struggling learners and to improve the identification of children under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) classification of Specific Learning Disability (SLD).” (Zirkel, 2012).

An RTI system is focused on delivering effective core instruction to all students and evidence-based intervention programs to struggling students. The progress of students in interventions is frequently monitored and teams meet regularly to make decisions about next steps based on data and decision rules. The objective is to find those students who need more instruction early before they have a history of failure and to provide them with the instruction they need in order to “catch up” with their peers. The evidence is overwhelming that when schools and districts implement RTI with fidelity, student outcomes improve and the achievement gap narrows. Providing and supporting early intervention prior to identification of an SLD allows students to receive instruction based on demonstrated areas of need quickly and ensures progress is monitored and adjusted by a team of educators. Students entering a school district implementing an RTI system do not wait until they are identified with an SLD to receive intensified instruction focused on improving their outcomes.

RTI provides support and data-based decision making processes to appropriately intensify instruction and interventions as progress is monitored. However, despite effective, research-based core instruction and interventions, some students continue to have low skills and make slow progress compared with their peers. These students may need the extra safeguards provided through special education identification.  

In an RTI system, SLD identification revolves around answering three fundamental questions and ruling out exclusionary factors.  

  1. Does the student have significantly low skills compared with peers?
  2. Is the student making slow progress compared with peers despite intensive, evidence-based interventions?
  3. Does the student need Specially Designed Instruction?
  4. Can we rule out the exclusionary factors as being the cause of the slow progress?

All states allow the use of RTI for SLD identification with at least 15 states requiring the use of this method. Here in Oregon more and more districts are beginning to use this method. One district states their reasoning for moving to using RTI for SLD identification as: 

"RTI for SLD provides a comprehensive system for data collection and decision-making to support students, rather than basing decisions on a one-moment-in-time high stakes standardized assessment.  Or more simply…It is the right thing to do.”
Districts who implement RTI effectively typically see a reduction in the percentage of students (inappropriately) identified as having a learning disability as is evidenced in data from ORTIi’s last two cadres. When school districts commit to effective and comprehensive implementation of their response to instruction and intervention systems we see an increase in students at benchmark and a decrease in SLD identification rates.  

“Adopting an RTI model is about adopting best professional practice, insisting that we do what is best and necessary for all students in our schools, and, finally, rising to the challenge of doing that which is socially just. That is why we must adopt an RTI model and implement it with integrity in every school throughout the nation” (Prasse, 2017).

Prasse, D. P., (2017). Why Adopt an RTI Model?  RTI Action Network.
Shinn, M. R., (2016). NASP: Multitiered System of Support Digest.
Zirkel, P. (2012). The Legal Dimension of RTI: Part I. The Basic Building Blocks .
RTI Action Network.

(For more information, please visit the SLD section on the Oregon RTIi website: