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West Branch Offers Widespread Intervention Programs to Increase Performance and Reduce Learning Lag

April 7, 2022

West Branch Local School District has implemented new practices and refreshed existing programs to improve the effectiveness of its intervention initiatives throughout the entire district. Intervention programs throughout the district provide additional instruction to help students reach grade-level performance goals.

“The learning lag was accelerated by COVID,” says West Branch Middle School Principal Jayson Yeagley, “but it was always there.” 

Intervention throughout the district focuses on pupils in the general student population who are not meeting grade-level standards. The staff uses testing and assessments to identify the students who would receive intervention in the way of extra assistance, coaching, and practice to increase their understanding and skills. Student progress monitoring provides the team the ability to determine how students are progressing, allowing the staff to adjust approaches if necessary, until the student has achieved the skill levels needed to close the learning gap.

“We are always benchmarking them,” says Yeagley. “This gives us a constant view of improvement.”

The district utilized ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds this past fall to introduce two interventionists at the Middle School and two interventionists at the Intermediate School to focus on these students who were falling into a learning gap in math and English Language Arts (ELA).

At West Branch High School, the INVEST period was refreshed to ensure additional resources and interventions were provided to students grades 8-12.

Phonics at West Branch Early Learning Center and Intermediate School

In the Early Learning Center (K-2) and Intermediate School (3-5), the intervention programs utilize the same phonics programs that are taught in the classrooms, providing a consistent approach in which students can continue to build their skills.

A placement assessment is used to match the intervention to each child’s specific needs - whether it be to return to skills taught in previous lessons, or to receive additional instruction and guidance with current classroom lessons.

West Branch K-12 Literacy Liaison Barb Eisenhart explains that in the intermediate school, as progress monitoring shows students becoming stronger in decoding, the focus of lessons shift to comprehension while still supporting accuracy.

“As of December, 35% of the [intermediate school] students have been moved out of intervention instruction due to success shown in progress monitoring data,” says Eisenhart. 

West Branch Intervention

The intervention program at West Branch Intermediate School employs digital resources to help students improve their literacy skills and monitor student improvements. Interventionist Paige Brown works with intermediate students in the program.

Literacy Collaboratives at West Branch Intermediate and Middle Schools

Intermediate and middle school students identified for support in improving their ELA skills join a literacy collaborative during the time set aside for silent reading during their ELA courses.

The interventionist leads this small group session that helps students build comprehension, self-correction, and fluency skills. They practice building background knowledge, explore vocabulary, and participate in student-based discussion as they read through texts.

The students practice expressing their thoughts and ideas and making connections with the text in writing notebooks, which guide the group discussions.

“The kids love it,” says Alice Cartwright, ELA interventionist at the middle school. She says that these same students, who are many times too intimidated to participate in their ELA class, often leave her amazed with their comments and contributions to the discussion. “They’re more than willing to share with that small group.”

Routine benchmarking provides the interventionists the opportunity to see how students are progressing and identify any changes in the skills to focus on and target for improvement.

West Branch Intervention

 

Alice Cartwright guides literacy collaboratives to help West Branch Middle School students improve their fluency and comprehension skills.

West Branch Intervention

 

Students in the West Branch Middle School literacy intervention program use fiction and non-fiction pieces to strengthen and test their literacy skills.

Math at West Branch Intermediate and Middle Schools

Math interventionists work with teachers and participate in classroom activities and lead individual instruction.

At times, the math liaisons are in the classroom, working with groups or an entire room of students together, regardless of whether the students are identified for intervention. Noelle Ramsey, math interventionist at the middle school, circulates the room as students collaborate, working with all groups as they navigate through the problems and practice their new and previously learned skills.

The interventionists also provide individualized instruction and to practice particular skills that were identified for improvement through MAP testing. During study hall, these students who need to work on specific skills join Ramsey for math games designed to reinforce skills and quizzes to practice these skills. “I have even had some students ask to join us,” says Ramsey.

Interventionists meet with teachers to discuss the lesson plans and student progress. In addition to anecdotal notes on student improvements, formal assessments help judge student understanding and progress to determine any continuing or changing needs a student may have.

West Branch Intervention

 

Interventionist Noelle Ramsey works with groups of students both within general education classes and in specialized tutoring sessions as part of the West Branch Middle School intervention program.

West Branch Intervention

 

West Branch Intermediate students work with interventionist Julie McConnell to receive additional practice and support in improving specific math skills through the school’s targeted intervention programs.

West Branch High School

Every student in 8th through 12th grades at West Branch has a 23 minute INVEST period each day. The period is utilized for career exploration, social and emotional lessons, and intervention.

“The district is INVESTING in the academic, career, and social/emotional needs of ALL students,” West Branch High School Counselor Jana Stitle explains of the INVEST period. Students with a D or an F at midterms receive additional assistance and instruction during this time period. Support from district staff may be content-based (helping students understand and apply lessons), or may be organizational (helping students overcome hurdles in managing homework, communications, etc. that are impacting their grades). The hard work pays off, with Stitle noting that a number of students receiving the additional support improve their failing scores into passing grades.

Another staff member assists students with practicing and preparing for state testing if they have not yet successfully passed the tests. The support has helped the students with phenomenal success rates - Stitle says that all students who were in the program for math have since achieved passing scores.

The INVEST period provides the opportunity for students to practice and enhance their skills with teachers and the intervention resources available without taking from their instructional time in any of their academics. The INVEST period also serves as a common time built into student schedules, allowing groups of students to gather for things such as career development activities, ACT prep, and Advanced Placement (AP) class study groups.

Several students are also taking advantage of the newly launched Cognitia program, a student-led peer-to-peer tutoring program. The program, founded by Boardman students, currently has seven West Branch students tutoring in the district.





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