Our first home as young newlyweds was a small bungalow built in 1942. We purchased the house in the month of August, many months before we discovered the drafty windows. As the Michigan winter rushed in, it literally rushed right through our house. Day after day. Month after month. Winter after winter.

It took a few years, but we finally saved enough money to buy new windows…five-thousand dollars! The windows were installed one summer and we looked forward to FINALLY being warm as winter approached.

But, we weren’t. The house was still cold!

We spent a few months in denial. $5000.00 was a hard pill to swallow! The fact that we were still cold was beyond our comprehension.

Eventually, we noticed an ever-so-slight crack of daylight showing under the bottom of the back door. The weather stripping had dislodged from the floor track. But, as my husband and father evaluated the situation more closely, they determined that we needed a new door. They went to the store, purchased a $200 door, and installed it within a few hours.

Suddenly…INSTANTLY…we were warm!

Of course, it was great that we could finally thaw out in the living room, but it was really disappointing to realize we spent a few years’ savings on windows when we only needed a $200.00 solution. We simply never thought to evaluate the door. The windows looked very old, so our attention was fully fixed on them…for years!

I would be willing to bet you have a similar story where you pursued a complex solution to a problem, only to discover that the BEST solution was pretty darn simple, less expensive…and right before your eyes.

This, of course, happens in all aspects of our lives and throughout the world. Education is certainly no exception! A few weeks ago, Response to Intervention (RTI) expert, Pat Quinn, addressed this phenomenon in his newsletter.

He discussed the most popular question he gets about RTI, which is, “Where do I start?” His answer may surprise you…

Whole-class instruction! He recommends focusing initial efforts on improving the whole-class instruction (Tier I) before anything is done to develop Tier II or Tier III.

As he says…

The most important first step in successfully implementing RTI is ensuring the quality of full-class instruction.

Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions may be what everyone is talking about, but full-class instruction affects more students.

The fastest way to increase learning at your school is to improve full-class instruction.

The least expensive way to increase learning at your school is to improve full-class instruction.

The change that will affect the most number of students at your school is to improve full-class instruction.

I know that isn’t the most exciting answer, but it is the right answer. And there are a lot of schools spending a lot of energy running around trying to implement a complicated system of Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions when much of that energy would be better spent simply focusing on improving Tier One, full-classroom instruction.

In many schools the need for Tier 2 small group interventions could be drastically reduced if Tier One full-class instruction was at a high level in all classrooms.

This is completely congruent with my experience in teaching and tutoring hundreds of books for tweens students; when the instruction is solid from the beginning, the need for intervention -on the whole- becomes far less significant. Obviously, study skills play a HUGE roll in my experiences; students thrive when they know HOW to learn and study effectively.

Unfortunately, I find that most schools are only interested in study skills for their at-risk, special education, Title 1, or otherwise-labeled “struggling students.”

My question is…do we really need to let ALL of those students get that far? Is there any chance that teaching study skills in the whole-class setting would improve student performance and reduce the number needing special services?

That is exactly what a team of school psychologists in Prince George County, VA determined! They analyzed their caseloads across their district and discovered that over 50% of the students referred to them for academic problems were simply struggling from a lack of organization and study skills.

1 out of every 2 “special education referrals” were resolved with study skills instruction!

Originally, it seemed like these students had a $5000.00 problem. After analyzing the problem more carefully, these educators discovered a $200 solution!


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