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District has new model for handling students' academic and behavioral problems

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by Charlotte Pope

The School District has begun to roll out a new system for responding to poor classroom performance, bad behavior, and truancy in students.

The West Philadelphia Parent and Family Resource Center, in collaboration with the School District of Philadelphia’s Parent University, held the second of four parent workshops Thursday to introduce a new system called RtII, or Response to Instruction and Intervention.

The RtII model promises targeted interventions and the differentiation of universal instruction to meet individual student needs. The model is built around levels of school support in academics, behavior, discipline, and attendance. All of them use alternatives to suspension and expulsion, routine intervention assessments, and frequent progress monitoring.

RtII was launched in the District as a pilot program with limited use in 2009. It is gradually being implemented across all District schools and will replace the District’s Comprehensive Student Assistance Process (CSAP).

Julia Manokhina, a program manager with the District’s Office of Parent, Family, and Community Services, said it’s a needed change because the CSAP process lacked a proactive method of intervention.

“With CSAP, we waited until the students really started failing -- until they really got in trouble with behavior,” said Manokhina, who led the discussion.

“As the data started coming in, we realized it was time for us to make a change. So we are holding these workshops to let parents know what they should expect and what they should ask for if their child is falling behind,” Manokhina said.

Cynthia Wesley, a school improvement support liaison at Alain Locke Elementary, keeps track of student attendance and monitors truancy, one of the four targeted support systems of the RtII model.

She began using the RtII method in September and has been going through training on how to encourage student attendance and let parents know that learning does not stop when a child comes home.

“I work to help educate parents about the model and how it’s functioning, and to get parents more involved in their child’s education,” Wesley said. “Parental support for education is a very big piece in providing incentives for attendance.”

Manokhina said that as RtII is rolled out, they continue to collect data about the students' benchmarks and attendance numbers, and monitor their behaviors.

"Based on this we have a clear picture of which kids are on track, and which kids start falling behind," said Manokhina. “This gives us a chance to really intercede [with] students who are starting to fall behind.”

Two more RtII explanation sessions will be held: Tuesday, Dec. 11, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Andrew J. Morrison School, and Thursday, Dec. 13, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Woodrow Wilson Middle School. Parents and others interested in attending can register online at the Parent University.

Charlotte Pope is an intern at the Notebook. 

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