MS Effective Instruction

 By Dean Richards

By Dean Richards

Often when teams start thinking about Multi-Tired Systems of Support, conversations begin to slide into the supports that are needed for our most struggling students.  While instructional and behavior interventions are a key piece of a strong school system, the heart of the school lies in every day core classes.  The first level of instructional supports for struggling students always occurs in core classes.

Across all subject areas, ELA, Math, Social Studies, Science and beyond, digging deep into the content will require reading. The Institute for Educational Sciences has looked at the research and given five recommendations.  These recommendations provide guidance to core teachers. 

The first recommendation is to provide explicit vocabulary.  This includes an instructional routine with distributed practice rather than just looking up words in the dictionary or glossary and filling in a work sheet.  

The second recommendation is direct and explicit instruction in comprehension.  The use of instructional routines before, during and after will aid all students in the thinking of text.   

Recommendations 1 and 2 both have instructional moves that can be found on

Recommendation three emphasizes the importance of discussion about text.  As we ask purposeful questions for discussion, keeping the questions bound to the text and asking for evidence is key.  Discussions also do not need to run through the teacher.  Speaking and Listening standard 1 asks students to engage in purposeful conversations with a variety of partners.  Structured purposeful partnerships is a great way to work toward this standard.
Motivation and engagement are always a struggle with middle school age students.  This is the focus of recommendation four.  Kelley Gallagher, teacher and author writes that there is a difference between liking a text and gleaning information from a text. Finding ways to provide a meaningful connection between content and within content is likely to increase student motivation.  Additionally, recommendation four suggests providing ways to increase student choice in the text they read, “Empowering students to make decisions about topics, forms of communication, and selections of materials encourages them to assume greater ownership and responsibility for their engagement in learning.”
The last recommendation is to provide interventions for struggling students.  While this is a part of a good MTSS system, we cannot close the gaps of struggling readers during one period a day.  So it falls on ALL teachers to employ the recommendations across the day in order for us to help our students have a full option graduation.

To learn more about the Improving Adolescent Literacy IES Practice Guide follow this link:

The Power of Teacher Collaboration: Core Review/100% Meetings

 By Jenice Pizzuto & Nicole Kaye

By Jenice Pizzuto & Nicole Kaye

Quote: “Core review meetings have been the most powerful meeting structure brought to our school.  We have moved from working on islands of excellence to powerful collaboration teams focused on student learning.”  Teacher from ORTIi District

Feedback like the quote above from teachers affirm our commitment to training ORTIi districts to utilize Core Review, 100% Meetings. The Core Review, 100% Meeting structure unleashes the power of teacher collaboration and syncs up effective instructional strategies across grade levels.  Teacher collaboration and a focus on ongoing and embedded professional learning that is standards based helps support teacher teams and school staff work together to learn, grow, and improve outcomes for students.  Work like this is supported in a recent study from Ronfeldt, M., Farmer, S., McQueen, K., & Grissom, J. (2015). Teacher collaboration in instructional teams and student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 52(3), 475-514. 

“Nearly all teachers (90%) report that their collaboration was helpful and the extent of their collaboration ranged from a mean score of 2.51 to 3.06 on a 4-point scale. Instruction-focused and assessment-focused collaboration were perceived as more helpful and extensive.”

Core Review Meetings (i.e.; 100%, Tier I, or Benchmark Meetings)

Three times a year, following universal screening, grade level teams, along with administrators and support staff, analyze these data to determine the health of core instruction and to identify which students may need interventions.  At these meetings the team also determines the essential priority skills for the grade level and agree on strategies for addressing these skill needs.

The Core Review, 100% Meeting process trained by the ORTIi team and utilized by their participating districts provides teacher teams with a collaborative, instruction focused meeting structure in which to examine student data and make instructional adjustments that are selected by teacher teams. This protocol and process supports teams as they move from congenial conversations to deep collegial conversations pressing in, examining skill specific performance of grade level students, and supports them in selecting highly effective instruction and active engagement strategies to implement in their classrooms.  Teams have the opportunity to support one another in implementation through peer support, a common focus and with support from leadership.  This is truly a team effort that includes teachers, specialists, and the principal.  

Consider watching the webinar below to learn more about the Core Review, 100% Meeting process.

Making the Most Out of Collaboration Time

The following are some useful resources and tips for increasing the effectiveness of your core review meetings:

1.    Bring a well-rounded team. This should include the principal, grade level teachers, interventionists, and specialists.  Moreover, all team members should be engaged and offer insight and action ideas for the team.  
2.    Set aside enough time to foster deep conversations and time for planning.  Hold an organized meeting using a clear agenda, designate roles (such as facilitator, note taker, and time keeper), and have materials and data prepared in advance.
3.    Provide background knowledge.  Ensure that everyone on the team has an understanding of the big five ideas of reading, the importance of core instruction, how to interpret the data, and how to match student skill need to an instructional action plan.
4.    Go public.   Following the meeting, share the priority skills and action plans in a public space, such as a staff room or display board.  This not only serves as a reminder for all, but also builds solidarity and fosters impromptu collaborations between staff members and across grade level teams.  
5.    Follow-up. Even the best-laid plans cannot benefit students if they are not implemented.  The most often overlooked, but most important component of the core review meetings is the follow-up support.   Principals and instructional leaders such as literacy coaches and/or RTI coordinators have an integral responsibility to ensure that plans created by teachers are used in the classroom effectively and consistently.  Leadership also paves the way for ongoing embedded professional development and support for new skills and strategies.  


Watch this webinar to:

•    Learn about the Core Review, 100% Meeting process
•    Get a chance to review the agenda in detail
•    Learn about the Problem Solving Process
•    See a meeting in action and get information on leading and facilitating a meeting.

 Before viewing, please make sure you have:
•    Printed our Core Review, 100% Meeting Agenda
•    Allotted 75 minutes to complete the session
•    A writing utensil and paper for note taking
•    It may help to select a facilitator to lead you through the process


Click here to enjoy this webinar now.


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: