Preparing for our upcoming conversation with Rick and Becky DuFour on the steps that highly functioning professional learning communities take to provide enrichment and remediation opportunities for every child has gotten me thinking a ton about the intervention efforts of my own learning team.

You see, even though I work with some of the most accomplished teachers that I’ve ever met—people who have changed my practice in deep and meaningful ways over the course of our time together—we’ve struggled to craft team-based remediation and enrichment opportunities for our students.

What’s crazy is that even though we know that taking action on evidence is essential to ensuring success for every child that walks through our classrooms, organizing that action has been harder than we could have ever expected.

I think a major part of our struggles is that we haven’t really had the chance to see examples of team-based interventions in action.

We wonder how other teams are efficiently collecting learning data to determine which students need extra time to master content and which students are ready to move ahead.  We’d love to see how other teams are creatively restructuring the blocks of time built into our master schedule to create additional opportunities for learning.

We’re curious about how other teams are using human capital—tapping into school professionals like our academically gifted teachers and guidance counselors—to create smaller groups for remediation and enrichment.

My guess is that we’d probably hit the ground running if we could replicate the work of teams that had successfully created additional time for struggling students to learn.

Philosophically, we’ve bought into the idea that first attempts at remediation and enrichment should take place at the team level.  We’re just not sure how to put philosophy into practice.

What lessons can you learn from our struggles?

That’s easy:  If you’re a school leader interested in seeing team-based interventions spread across every grade level and content area in your building, you’ve got to bring transparency to the process.

The chances are good that somewhere in your building, teachers and teams are collecting data efficiently and using time in innovative ways to reach students, right?

Your job is to systematically document those efforts, building your organization’s collective knowledge about what works.  In the most effective professional learning communities, no team develops intervention efforts from scratch.  Instead, they learn from the successes and failures of colleagues working with the same students, schedules and resources.

Intimidated yet?  Well you shouldn’t be! 

Building the organizational knowledge of your school starts by answering the following four questions about each intervention strategy that has already been tried by your teachers and learning teams:

  • What did this intervention strategy look like in action?  In a few short sentences, describe each team-based intervention effort that has been tried in your building. Include the name of the team involved and the reason the intervention was initially designed.
  • How effective was this intervention strategy?  How do you know that this intervention effort was effective or ineffective? What evidence has the team collected to show that the intervention has impacted students in a positive way?
  • What resources were necessary to ensure effective implementation of this intervention strategy? Include consumable physical supplies as well as professional development, additional time, or additional faculty members. Can your school support the expansion of this intervention strategy?
  • What teams could benefit from learning more about this intervention strategy? Which faculty members were essential to the success of this intervention? Who are they connected to in your building? How can you use their relationships to spread this intervention?

Once you’ve collected information about each intervention strategy that has already been tried in your building, you’ll have an incredibly valuable source of customized information about what’s working—and what’s not—in your building.

You’ll be able to use this information to spot patterns and to answer questions like:

  • How can our schedule be manipulated to create more time for learning?
  • Are other school professionals making a direct impact on intervention efforts?
  • What professional development does our faculty need in order to effectively intervene on behalf of students?
  • Where are the pockets of innovation in our building?  How can I use relationships to spread this innovation?

More importantly, your learning teams will have access to tangible sets of plans for innovation efforts that they can tailor to their own grade levels and/or content areas.

Does this make any sense?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that systematically documenting the intervention efforts that are already happening in your building can help to close the dreaming-doing gap for teachers.

And if you’re interested in learning more about interventions in action, be sure to mark your calendars for May 19-21, when we’ll explore systems of intervention together here on the Radical with Rick and Becky DuFour.

(Blogger’s Note:  If you’re interested, you can download an interactive PDF that includes my four key questions here.  It’s a part of a collection of handouts from my book on professional learning communities.)

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