How data and tiered supports can boost achievement of Title I students

A look at how Kentwood Public Schools in Michigan, use data to identify and adapt to student needs and how the use of Title I resources has improved outcomes for a diverse student body

Kentwood (Mich.) Public Schools is a public school district that serves more than 9,000 students in its 17 schools. All 10 elementary schools in the district are Title I schools operating as schoolwide programs, with one, Discovery Elementary School, recognized by the U.S. Education Department as a 2020 Blue Ribbon School for Exemplary High Performing Schools.

“There are lots of variables that make schools successful,” says Michael Pickard, executive director of elementary instruction and federal programs for the district. Using tiered supports and data to identify and adapt to student needs are some of the key components of the district’s Title I program.

Pickard recently spoke with Title1Admin®/ESEA Now about Kentwood’s use of Title I resources to improve outcomes for the diverse student body in the district.Most students in the district had returned to in-person learning at the time of the interview, with the other students opting for online-only instruction.

Q: Discovery Elementary School was awarded as a 2020 Blue Ribbon School and it is a Title I school. How has the school used Title I or other federal resources to continue to meet high performance standards?

A: There are lots of variables that make schools successful. We have a strong, district-led multi-tiered system of support teams incorporated into our schools. We have data dialogues monthly to look at student performance, and they are moved in fluent and flexible groups based on their needs. Title I comes into that measure of MTSS and works with kids who are in the flexible fluent groups to close their gaps. That’s one of the biggest ways we use Title I funds.

Q: How are students identified to be in those fluent-flexible groups?

A: We use a diagnostic assessment called I-Ready that is given three times a year in fall, winter, and spring. Within that curriculum-based, diagnostic-based assessment, there are learning platforms, pathways for students in a blended learning model. As our teachers are paying attention and progress monitoring and doing other formative assessments, we move students accordingly every four to six weeks.

Q: How is your district leveraging funding streams in the schoolwide program for other students? Are there other things Title I is being used for that improve achievement?

A: We have academic coaches that work with teachers, and we have academic coaches that work with paraprofessionals and interventionists that are hired by Title I. We also provide professional development on an ongoing, sustained intentional manner. We also have a very engaged parent component. We use the Joyce Epstein model out of Johns Hopkins University as our plan for parent engagement, which is also in our schoolwide plan.

As I said before, there are a lot of variables, and Title I plays a key role in that.

Q: What are some of the keys to success?

A: It’s our core curriculum that we’ve developed and implemented in reading, math, and science, as well as professional development we expect from our teachers in their delivery. I think that’s all one piece. The Title I perspective comes into play for using data appropriately, both for intervention and professional development, and sometimes that means individual teacher professional development.

For example, we may find a teacher that needs some support in geometry, so we would provide our math coach to come in and work with that teacher on a three- to six-week cycle. It’s tailored for the teachers’ needs. Our coaches are well-trained and have participated in state, regional, and county independent school district professional development in how to be a good literacy coach. We call them coaching cycles.

We have a group from Discovery Elementary School meeting Friday afternoons after work that are just focused on remote learning strategies. We have lots of engaged teachers that go above and beyond, like a lot of teachers do, but we also try to provide them some time to collaborate and network and work on best practices. We support that through the process of teacher leaders as well.

Q: What are some things that have made a difference in student achievement?

A: 1. Aligned curriculum that is aligned to the assessments.

  1. Engaging professional development and motivated and engaged teachers.
  2. Relationships. When principals or myself walk into the buildings—it’s tough because of the pandemic, but in normal years—kids would be given fist bumps and hugs; they feel safe, they know they are there for a reason, and they want to be successful.
  3. Data in moving kids and teachers in the areas of their needs.
  4. It’s got to be fun. Through PBIS and MTSS, we do lots of tickets for good behaviors and high expectations.

Charles Hendrix covers education funding and other Title I issues for TitleIAdmin, a DA sister publication. 

Charles Hendrix
Charles Hendrix
Charles Hendrix has been writing about federal K-12 education policy, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, since 2006, and has in-depth knowledge of Capitol Hill and the federal legislative process. He is a senior editor with LRP Publications and the author of What Do I Do When® The Answer Book on Title I – Fourth Edition. He lives in South Florida with his son and their trusted chiweenie, Junior.

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