By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
A fresh approach to increasing student success at the high school level in Clinton could lead to the Lincoln campus closing as early as next school year in order to give all students the same academic opportunities, school officials discussed Monday.
“Its not being done on a whim. It's based on data,” Superintendent Deb Olson said. “We look at the data not supporting the format that’s going on, we need to try something else.”
The Response to Intervention program is a three-tiered district-wide system that aims to prevent student’s academic struggles with intervention intensity increasing at each level. The RTI program has been implemented in dramatic fashion at Clinton High School, the RTI team explained during a lengthy discussion with the Clinton School Board on Monday night. The new actions implemented include changing teacher schedules and offering afterschool programs in order to provide all students, even those in advanced placement and honors courses, with extra help. The program allows students to move throughout the tiers depending on the level of help they need and aims to remove the stigma associated with needing more intense tutelage.
All students receive help at the tier I level, which includes parent teacher conferences, college career nights and other activities. Tier II students receive more intense programs including a lunch study table that takes them out of lunch to work in a group setting with teachers. Tier II students can also attend a sixth period after school where they receive additional help. Between 5 and 15 percent of students fall into this category. The top tier includes students who need the most intense level of help, generally 1 to 5 percent of students.
The program has so far improved the academic success of all students. Students on the top tier — those classified as “behavioral disorder” or “BD” students, attending classes online or at Lincoln High — still face harsh statistics.
District officials can celebrate the decreasing number of failed courses at the high school level that went from 480 in the 2009-2010 school year to 184 in the same period of the current year.
However, they are also reminded the outlook is not as rosy for tier III students. The graduation and attendance rates for students in tier three remain low. BD students have a 10 percent graduation rate while only 40 percent of the 55 students assigned to Lincoln attend school daily.
“I think we've got to align tiers one, two and three. It's really imperative that we do that,” CHS principal Karinne Tharaldson Jones said.
Aligning the three tiers would include combining the BD program with at-risk students as well as closing the Lincoln campus.
While tier III students would still have access to more individualized and intense instruction, they would also be given access to the opportunities at CHS that increase their chance of graduation and success after high school. According to Olson, the district would utilize the house behind CHS to offer two or three classes for students needing tier III intervention.
“The reasons kids go to Lincoln is lack of credits, poor attendance and we’re working hard at the freshman and sophomore level to reduce that so it reduces the number of students that build into that tier III as we go forward, because we’re reducing them at the younger ages,” CHS assistant principal and principal of Lincoln Brian Galusha said.
He said the focus is also to let students know that not doing work is not acceptable.
School district officials said they’ve received objections from a number of people who have heard rumblings of the idea and don’t want to see the Lincoln campus close. While sympathetic, officials say they believe the move would be the best for students.
“I think it's very emotional for everyone because people love Lincoln,” Tharaldson Jones said. “What we're trying to do is get kids back into the courses available at Clinton High, get interventions and come back.”
Tharaldson Jones said she would like to see Lincoln students reintegrated into CHS as early as next school year.
“This is not about saving money. It's about doing what's best for the kids,” Olson said.