Friday, August 01, 2014

COBBS: Innovation through testing tactics

By RYAN COBBS, Ottawa High School | 9/9/2013

When I was offered the position of Ottawa High School principal, the school board informed me of their desire to see our district become innovators in the realm of education. We have taken that task to heart at OHS as major changes have come through our school in the past year. Quite possibly none are more important than the implementation of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) at the high school level.

Such innovation now has been recognized throughout Kansas as our seven-person MTSS Committee was asked to present last week at a state wide convention in Wichita.

When I was offered the position of Ottawa High School principal, the school board informed me of their desire to see our district become innovators in the realm of education. We have taken that task to heart at OHS as major changes have come through our school in the past year. Quite possibly none are more important than the implementation of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) at the high school level.

Such innovation now has been recognized throughout Kansas as our seven-person MTSS Committee was asked to present last week at a state wide convention in Wichita.

Our MTSS program is one of very few at the high school level that truly targets reading as an area of improvement, and provides direct, intensive learning that is specific to each student in need at their individual level, while monitoring progress in a manner that helps our students and their parents understand their abilities and the progress they are making after instruction. This is our second year of implementation at OHS, and we began the screening of our students the very first day.

The freshmen were MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) tested their first day of school, needing a specific cut score to test out of the MTSS program.  If they did not meet that cut score, they were moved into a class during our Tier time in which they were then MAZE tested (a test specific to reading comprehension) also looking for a specific cut score. If they met that score, they were then moved into a regular Tier class, while those who did not were then R-CBM tested. This test provides us with an understanding of the needs of each individual student.

We use this information to determine if their needs are based upon comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, or phonics as well as the grade level in which we need to provide this instruction. We currently are undergoing the same processes for our sophomore-level students as well.

This program still is in its infancy, however, we already are seeing results that prove that our process is working. Last year, our freshman class had 44 students who were enrolled in the process. By the end of the year, all but 16 had shown enough improvement to test out of the MTSS class. This year, we have seen some of last year’s freshmen who tested out come back to this class, which was to be expected with nearly three months of no reading instruction at all. That number, however, still is lower — dramatically lower, in fact — than where we started last year; and the number of freshmen needing intervention is even lower than the number of freshmen we started with last year.

Our success in implementing this program has shown us to be pioneers in the area of reading instruction at the high school level. The fact that we were asked to present our program to representatives of schools from across the state further shows that what we are doing at OHS not only is innovative, but also is catching the envious eye of our educational system peers.

Although our program is not perfect, and we continue to make adjustments to benefit our students, we are very proud of what we have accomplished and the opportunity we have afforded our students as we push to ensure that every student who graduates from OHS is equipped with the skill set needed to be successful in their educational endeavors, professions and lives.

Dr. Ryan Cobbs is principal at Ottawa High School. Email him at cobbsr@usd290.org or call (785) 229-8020.

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