Monday, October 4, 2010

Helping Struggling Learners with IRIS

How do we help struggling learners at the secondary level? It doesn't seem to be as easy as it is at the elementary level.

I'm so excited about what we're starting at Manson Northwest Webster Jr/Hs to help our struggling students and IRIS (Iowa's Rapidly Improving Schools ) grant has made it possible. We are in our 2nd year of IRIS support that has helped make possible the development of a sustainable framework for helping all young adults that struggle.

Last week, I spent 3 days with our team consisting of teacher leaders and our jr/hs principal. The first day was spent in a site visit with the state IRIS team. During that time we discussed, 1) our framework and criteria for identifying and meeting the needs of students who struggle, 2) the process for assisting those kids and 3) the data collection methods for determining our success. We've worked hard to make sure this framework is one that not only follows best practice, but is one that can be sustained after the IRIS support is gone. During the site visit we talked about using our well established collaborative teams to work with the strugglers and within each team assigning a teacher advocate for each identified student. We all agree that kids need to know someone cares about them and that there is an individual teacher who will be their advocate--will look out for them, check up on them, and go to bat for them. I'm so fortunate to be part of a team who cares about what's best for all kids. Our IRIS team of @shawn_holloway, @mike_richman, @kyleteeselink, @briannelsonmnw @valeriejergens, @pjobgen and myself are all committed to doing what it takes so all kids will learn.

The last two days of IRIS consisted of a fall kick-off meeting in Ames with the nine other schools in Iowa. Our facilitators, Warren Weber, Peter Holly, and Mark Draper dedicated a great deal of time to collaboration. We not only learned from each other, but spent time developing an online network for learning and sharing. Thanks to Marcia Powell and Shawn Holloway for creating a Google Group and helping get everyone connected on Twitter. It's all about collaboration and doing what's best for all kids. And IRIS is providing support.

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