Cece Coffey, principal •

Churchill School • Homewood, Illinois

Churchill School (Homewood, IL)

I am principal of Churchill School in Homewood, Illinois.  Homewood School District 153 is in the southern suburbs of Chicago and serves a racially and economically diverse population. We are a building of just 3rd and 4th graders with nine sections of each grade.  Each grade level is divided into two teams.  We have three levels of reading intervention and two levels of math intervention - all designed for our regular education students.

By the end of the first quarter last year, my staff found themselves at the end of their collective ropes.  We have so many great interventions in place for kids- but students were being pulled throughout the day.  Some teachers were only able to identify 20-30 minutes per day when they had their entire class intact.  So we convened a representative committee to study the schedule.  We did this over the course of last school year and were able to build the following:

Each team (either 4 or 5 classrooms) has a dedicated 'activity hour.'During this hour, teachers have committed to no new instruction. Students identified for any one of the remedial interventions for reading or math or gifted pull-outs are scheduled for those interventions during this hour.  Other students, not identified for specific interventions are participating in specifically designed instructional activities for their particular needs.  Some students are working in literature circles, some are doing a vocabulary development program, some are working through our math fact mastery program. Teachers design this programming by team based on the needs of the students they have "left."

Now I have happy teachers and kids who are getting the most out of their instructional day.  Specialists are reporting increased time with their students because everyone shows up on time!  Teachers don't have to remember 10 different times throughout the day when Johnny and Susie have to be somewhere.  At their specified activity hour, students simply spread out through the building to their assigned interventions.

Classroom teachers are thrilled that they can count on the majority of their day with their entire class. I can't tell you the difference this has made.  Before the change, my staff was very committed to the level of interventions we had in place, but they were beginning to question the benefit of fracturing the students' day to the previous level.  Parents have responded positively as well.  When presenting intervention options to parents, I often get the question, "What are they going to miss while they are in Reading Center?"  This puts their mind at ease - knowing everyone is getting what they need during this time.

We are in year four of our PLC work.  We have made tremendous strides and have actually found that our PLC initiative has put us in great shape to address the federal Response to Intervention legislation.  We are exactly where we need to be......and we couldn't have done any of this without the research and guidance we receive each year at the PLC institute.

Posted in: Evaluation, Grouping

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Mrs. Coffey

I love your idea of having an activity hour this is a great way to allow the students to be independent while enjoying themselves and learning at the same time!

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Ms. Coffey,
I appreciate your thoughts and ideas, and can sympathize with your teachers who were feeling stretched by schedule complications. I am a special education teacher at a k-5 elementary school and the challenge of scheduling is one of my biggest issues. Having common time building-wide is a great solution to your struggles, and I also like the idea that all your students are getting just what they need at that time. Pooling resources and working smarter, not harder seems to be the way things need to go these days with dwindling resources and limited time.
My school is grappling with ways to work more efficiently next year, and I think working out a functional schedule is where we need to begin. I serve on our RTI committee and we are also looking at ways to train our paraprofessionals so they can deliver interventions to small groups as well as ways we can integrate multi-grade level groups to meet our students at their level.

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casc83 that sounds a lot like the R.T.I. model. However, even our high kids can have some areas that need improvement so if I am understanding the program they can move down to receive intervention. Nonetheless, once the intervention is deemed effective for the child the student can more up again.

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I too enjoyed your posting. We have 30 minutes for each grade level that we call Ranger Round Up. Students are placed in ability groups, and each grade level teacher teaches a group, either high, middle, or low, and the students with needs see an Interventionist. It works out because students are not missing core instructional time.

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This model sounds a lot like that of RTI (response to intervention). Is this the model that is being used here?

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I enjoyed your posting. Your success story triggered new ideas for me to take to my learning community. I like the dedicated activity hour.

Linda Berry

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