The Work That Matters
We are all looking to find the program, the policy, the initiative, the test, that will make a difference. We work so hard on improving instruction, coaching for fidelity, co-teaching models, walkthroughs, data dives, PLCs, and a hundred other ideas to improve the work of adults in the system. But it isn’t the work of adults that needs to improve. It’s the work of the STUDENTS.
Response to Instruction
None of these ideas are bad. They are actually very good, very good when they interact together in the right environment for the right purpose. This is where we lose sight of WHY we are here and why RTI is such a powerful idea. The whole MTSS system is based on this one powerful idea of STUDENT RESPONSE TO INSTRUCTION. Yet, rarely in meetings do we think very deeply about the quality of the student response. The vast majority of teacher-student interaction is at the recall level. The average exchange between a teacher and a student is about 3 seconds. We still place a very high value on getting the right answers fast so we can “COVER” the content. In many places, a “good teacher” still equates with a classroom that is “under control”. Assignments avoid productive struggle and can be graded quickly.
But the new core doesn’t call for that. The new core demands that students engage in higher-order thinking, deeper conversations, and productive struggle. What if we changed our focus? What if every single meeting was about student response to standards-based concepts? What if there were fewer questions with higher expectations? What if our classrooms moved beyond the lectures and opened up a dialogue? Is everyone getting at least 10 opportunities to respond in tier 1? Do our assignments take kids where they need to go? How could we make that happen?
Student response is everything. They are the ones who will be asked the hard questions and they are the ones who have the last word.