SRBI: Schools adapt toward inclusive teaching model

A fifth grader could be having trouble reading at the same level as his or her peers, but excelling in math.

This scenario is not uncommon throughout the years of schooling. Some kids develop certain skills faster than others, while requiring more attention to master different ones.

The state of Connecticut developed a method called “Scientifically Research Based Intervention” to ensure that educators can give children reinforcement in specific areas where they need it and extra challenges where they can take them.

More commonly known as SRBI in teaching circles, the method serves as a way to determine who might need special education — extra attention — and who could benefit from an extra challenge in the classroom.

“SRBI alerts teachers that if a student is struggling they might want to take a closer look,” said Alison Villanueva, the district’s supervisor of humanities for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Ridgefield Public Schools was found to be executing the method well, but there are some areas that need improvement — with an overall rating of 3.95 out of five across 31 SRBI categories.

That was what Villanueva and Anne Marie Cordisco, the assistant director of special education, told the Board of Education March 13.

“We’re in good shape, but we can still expand our menu of research-based interventions,”  Villanueva said. “Progress monitoring tools need to be improved — they’re not consistent across the board."

“We’re not utilizing data systems to the fullest. Everything is paper-based at the moment. … If you can imagine, going into a filing cabinet at each school is not the best way.”

What is SRBI?

SRBI was first designed in 2008 to screen the needs of all students.

The system helps pinpoint students who might need extra help, or those who are already doing well in the general instruction classroom.

Teachers use data they collect from their daily classroom observations to offer “research-based” help.

Although it can serve as an identification procedure for learning disabilities, it is not the only way to determine a child needs special education.

SRBI operates through a “three-tiered model,” and students may move along each tier, or remain in just one:

  • Tier one: Students succeed in the general education classroom without extra help.
  • Tier two: Students need extra help in addition to being in the general education classroom to succeed. The extra help can occur in large or small groups, in or out of the classroom.
  • Tier three: Students need a high level of support through small group instruction to succeed.

Villanueva said it’s important to separate SRBI from special education.

She said a student can move to tier two while bettering a specific skills, and then go right back up to tier one.

“There’s a myth that if you’re receiving SRBI support that you’re automatically special ed, but that’s not true,” said Villanueva.

“If interventions are not working, then SRBI can be used to inform that special ed might be necessary. They are separate entities but they can feed one another.”

Surveys

Villanueva and Cordisco collected data and conducted surveys from all nine schools from October to December 2016 to determine how the district was performing in SRBI.

“It is clear that SRBI practices are occurring across the district K-12,” said Villanueva.

“To what degree of fidelity and how consistently they are being implemented varies from building to building and in intensity.”

She said that the Ridgefield Public School system is in a good place to start adapting even further to the current model.

Recommendations

Going forward, the educators recommended a series of steps that will help the district reach a more consistent and strong execution.

They include redesigning the official district SRBI handbook, modifying schedules at the elementary and middle school levels to include 45 minutes of daily intervention time, and planning for collaborative meetings among educators.

They also suggested learning centers across all departments in Ridgefield High School and revised SRBI-related forms.

“The Ridgefield Public Schools handbook on the SRBI process needs to reflect the new language and information protocols coming from the state,” said Villanueva.

Other possibilities Villanueva and Cordisco think the board should look into are SRBI workshops for teachers, and digital platforms with specific SRBI features that all educators can access.

“Consistent language across the district is critical for communications with parents,” Villanueva said.