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Lowndes Schools addressing reading woes


Assistant Superintendent and Curriculum Coordinator Dr. Robin Ballard

Assistant Superintendent and Curriculum Coordinator Dr. Robin Ballard



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Sarah Fowler



The Lowndes County School District is taking steps to ensure that every child is reading on his or her grade level. 


At Friday's school board meeting, board members voted to hire seven Response to Intervention Specialists, also knows as RTIs. 


Assistant Superintendent and Curriculum Coordinator Dr. Robin Ballard described how the district identifies students struggling with reading and the steps they take to get them on the right track. 


"This is the district's second year to have full-time RTI coordinators, one in each elementary school," Ballard said in an email. "This is our first year to have these valuable employees at the secondary levels, too. We have one at West Lowndes High School, one shared RTI coordinator with Caledonia middle and high schools, and one shared with New Hope middle and high schools. These master's level educators are charged by our district to manage the students who are receiving Tier 3 services. Tier 3 services are provided when a student is not successful in Tier 2. Their teacher will bring supporting data and documentation to the Teacher Support Team or TST. Each school's TST is comprised of the RTI coordinator, teachers, the counselor, the principal or his or her designee, other as-indicated support personnel such as a nurse or speech pathologist, and the parent. This team reviews the data and documentation to determine a suitable scientifically researched-based intervention to be used daily with the student in a one on one or very small group setting to help close an identified learning gap." 


RTI coordinators make, on average, $55,000 a year, according to Ballard. 


In addition to hiring RTI's, the district also hired Intervention Assistants. There are currently six intervention assistants in the district and Ballard hopes to double that number next year. Intervention assistants make $14,300 a year, according to Ballard. 


"In the last several years, we have pulled our Assistant Teachers to conduct interventions, and to an extent, we will still be required to do that to meet student needs and to be in compliance," she said. "By adding more IAs, we will have to pull our assistant teachers less often. This is a critical role in our plan of attack with the recently legislated Literacy Based Promotion Act." 


The Literacy Based Promotion Act is also known as the Third Grade Gate. Students will not be promoted to the fourth grade if they are not reading on grade level. 


Ballard said the RTI's and IA's are vital to the student's success. 


"We do not want grid lock at the gateway," she said. "The IA is trained on how to conduct the intervention with the student. During the time the intervention instruction is being utilized with the student, progress monitoring is taking place to judge the effectiveness of the intervention. If the data and student performance indicate that the intervention is working, the learning deficit closes, the student is closely monitored and placed back in either Tier 1 or Tier 2, whichever is most appropriate for the student. If the intervention is not successful, the student's data and documentation is collected and organized to be presented for district review for possible testing for special education services." 


She added that if a child receives one on one time with an interventionist, they are not deemed a special needs student. 


"It's important to point out that the Tier 3 process is not a gateway to special education," she said. "Instead, its purpose is to correct learning deficits so the student can correct skill gaps and gain the self-efficiency to be successful in Tier 1." 


In addition to hiring the RTI's and the IA's the board also voted to hire 24 new personnel throughout the district.


Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.



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