Race to the Top – The Illinois Shared Learning Environment
By Mark Hansen | Eastland Superintendent of Schools
The Prairie Advocate News will feature an eight (8) week series of articles explaining the different expectations of all school districts who are participating in Race to the Top. This is the 3rd installment.
A major change in education over the past six (6) years has been an initiative referred to as Response to Intervention (RtI). Schools now use assessments to benchmark student learning in relation to their peers. These assessments are administered to all students three times annually, and to struggling students as often as every two weeks.
This approach is modeled after the medical profession. When a patient is ill, the physician evaluates the symptoms. The doctor may request additional tests. Often, the examination and testing do not result in a definitive diagnosis of the problem, but only narrow the possibilities. A treatment regimen is then started. That treatment is evaluated for effectiveness over time. If the treatment is effective, it is continued until no longer needed. If it is ineffective, a different treatment is implemented. You might call this a scientific, trial-and-error approach.
RtI starts similarly, with the screening of all students using universal assessments for reading and math. Struggling students are identified and evaluated. Interventions are implemented – different instructional approaches in smaller settings with a teacher or aide. These interventions do not replace the core instruction, but rather, supplement it. The interventions are evaluated regularly for effectiveness, and changed if necessary.
As a Race to the Top district, Eastland will be participating in a web-based database called the Illinois Shared Learning Environment (ISLE). The purpose of ISLE is to provide teachers with access to all of a student’s demographic and achievement data in an instant. Teachers will have the ability to access a student’s record on ISLE, where they will have, at the touch of a finger, all of his/her scores on previous assessments, interventions that have worked, comparisons of his/her performance in relation to other students nationally, attendance and demographic data, etc . . .
By providing easy and real-time access to data and data connections, ISLE will give teachers a powerful tool in designing instruction that meets students’ individual needs. All public schools in Illinois will eventually be required to participate in the Illinois Shared Learning Environment.