Lessons for Charter School Founders:
Building Programs to Support Students who are in Need of Additional Support
How does your school identify and support students who are in need of additional support?
For individuals looking to launch a new charter school, this question must be met with a fully articulated and highly detailed plan within the context of the larger charter school petition. As this particular area of inquiry serves as a stumbling block for many founding teams, this article provides some top-level insight into the principals of developing a strong and cohesive plan. For operational school leaders, this content may serve as a convenient pulse-check on your existing systems. Let’s dive in!
First, it’s important to define a “student who is in need of additional support.” School teams can come to the table with different definitions or parameters for this classification. While some groups classify students in need of additional support as those who perform below basic as measured by the chosen interim assessment, others define students in need of additional support as those individuals who demonstrate less than a certain amount of growth over a pre-determined amount of time. Be sure to clearly define the criteria for your classification, as it will serve as the foundation for your approach.
Your Identification System
To build your plan, start with your identification system – or your process for identifying students who are in need of additional support. Your identification system should include a few key items:
- A Universal Screener. Generally, at the start of each academic year, schools will administer an assessment that provides baseline data about each student. This enables the school to determine the instructional level of students and assess whether students need intervention or enrichment.
- Additional Assessments and Data. In addition to the universal screener data, you should determine what other data will be required to identify students needing intervention. This often consists of classroom assessments and student work, as well as any sort of benchmark assessments you plan to administer.
- Data Analysis. Once you know the data you will use, build time into the schedule to allow teachers to analyze data and identify students that may need interventions. This could happen during grade level team meetings or common planning time.
Your Support System
Once you’ve created a process for identifying students who are in need of additional support, you’ll need to determine how you will best support those students.
Your process should involve a student support team that includes leadership, special educators, and support staff such as speech pathologists or behavioral specialists. (The exact team will vary at each school depending on your anticipated student population and aligned staffing plan.)
The authorizer reviewing your application will want to understand how often the team meets, what they do when they meet, and how teachers will bring a student forward for discussion. The authorizer will also want to know how the team determines appropriate interventions, how they document attempted interventions and their respective successes, and how student progress is monitored.
There are many ways schools can provide interventions to students. States will generally require you to utilize a tiered model where high-quality core instruction is provided to all students, and additional interventions are provided based upon student needs. This can look different at every school, and it’s important to build your supports so that they meet the needs of your unique student population. Here are some examples of some very different approaches to building interventions to serve a high percentage of students in need of additional support:
- You may decide to implement a co-teaching model in the early elementary grades as a way to provide intensive interventions to students during their foundational years; this ensures sufficient staff to differentiate instruction, provide interventions, and modify instruction as required.
- Or you could build in intervention blocks during the regular school day and staff them accordingly.
- You could also have support staff push in during certain periods of the day; or have support staff pull students out and provide intensive interventions one on one or in a small group.
- You could have stations and use computer adaptive programs that deliver interventions and track progress.
- Or you could utilize curricular resources that are either extensions of their core curriculum, or supplemental.
All of these approaches have merit. In general, an authorizer considering granting a charter will want to know that:
- You are designing your intervention program with your student population in mind.
- You have research to support why a certain intervention design will meet those students’ needs and has evidence of success.
- Your staffing plan supports the intervention approach and appropriate funds are allocated in the budget for both staffing and intervention materials.
- You have a plan to continuously monitor and re-evaluate those interventions, just like your curricular resources, to ensure they are producing strong student outcomes.
Your Monitoring System
In terms of monitoring, your plan should articulate a regular cycle during which the teacher and student support team are looking at the student’s data to see if progress is being made. For example, the teacher and student support team might meet every 4-6 weeks to review and discuss progress. If progress isn’t being made, then additional interventions need to be tried and perhaps the student will need to move to a more intensive intervention. You should also communicate a process for releasing students from the intervention program when they have demonstrated adequate progress.
In addition to frequent monitoring of individual student progress, the authorizer will want to know that you have a plan to evaluate your overall intervention program. You must be able to determine, by looking at aggregated and disaggregated data, if the programs and model you implement are working.
Seek Help When You Need It
If you need more support in developing your application, consider registering for SchoolWorks Charter Application Writing Bootcamp. Our specialists also provide outsourced writing services to select founding groups. For information on any of these services, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.