Imagine: Jimmy starts high school and has difficulty with math. Although he does well in other subjects, he has low motivation in class and forgets when homework is due. Despite the teacher’s best efforts to encourage him and give him extra help, the student continues to struggle. As the semester continues, the teacher runs out of ideas for helping Jimmy and he falls farther and farther behind his classmates.

With the right plan and technology in place, this scenario might never have played out.
Simply put, early intervention is key to identifying struggling students. But, early intervention can only be successful if schools have a solid structure in place to access relevant data and act on it quickly.

Take my school, Battle Creek Central High School in Michigan, for example. We struggled with inconsistent intervention processes that didn’t produce dependable results and left some students feeling behind. Before long, we discovered the value of a set intervention plan paired with technology. Ever since, our teachers and staff are more connected to students and finding personalized solutions that get them back on the right path earlier. If your school is attempting to improve its student intervention strategies, I encourage you to consider the following lessons we learned.

1. Establish a plan
Having a vision before using technology is paramount. I’ve worked with districts who started using intervention modules, iPads, 1:1 initiatives, and other technology before having a vision and implementation plan in place. When that’s the case, things fall apart fast. It’s easy to focus on the benefits of technology, but the foundation my school built beforehand has sustained our intervention model.

Here's a tech-based approach to keeping students in school #earlyintervention #edtech

If your staff doesn’t understand what intervention looks like without technology, they are going to struggle recognizing technology’s added value. That’s why our first step was to map out what interventions looked like using pen and paper.

Our high school administration team and I started by determining what interventions were offered, what entrance and exit criteria existed, and much more. Next, we worked with interventionists and teachers to understand how and when to enter intervention referrals and actions. After you have a good outline in place, visualize the process and finalize it in a document that is shareable for staff. My high school’s leadership team illustrated our intervention process in a chart, detailing the separate tiers, behavior infractions, and response strategies. This kept staff on the same page and ensured consistent responses throughout our school.

Overall, our foundation helped us identify what we needed our future intervention software to do. For example, we knew that Google Sheets helped us capture the right data, but identifying trends was proving difficult. Therefore, we identified the need, set a vision, and implemented the solution that fit us best, which brings me to my next point…

About the Author:

Mitch Fowler is the administrative director of student data and innovation at Battle Creek (MI) Public Schools. You can follow him on Twitter at @fowlerm.


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