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Jefferson elementary schools focus on getting students caught up
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Officials at the two elementary schools within the Jefferson school system realize that most students aren’t magicians.

Instead of expecting students who are struggling academically to improve classroom performance on their own, the schools work to devise a plan to help the students catch up with their peers.

The process, known as the Pyramid of Intervention, involves a team effort from teachers, parents and the student.

"The Pyramid of Intervention is a framework developed by the Georgia Department of Education to meet the requirements of Response to Intervention. RTI is a federal model in response to (No Child Left Behind) mandates," said DeMaris Gurley, who is the principal of Jefferson Academy, one of the city’s two elementary schools.

"It is designed to provide effective assistance to underachieving students through the use of research-based interventions for either academic or behavior (issues)."

Students at the two elementary schools — Jefferson Academy and Jefferson Elementary — are assessed every two weeks. The schools’ teachers go over the results to determine which students could benefit from extra attention.

"The program has been in the developmental stages since 2004, and our team has been attending extensive training since that time," Gurley said. "Our goal is to give extra support to the students who score in the lowest 10 percent of our schoolwide progress monitoring, commonly called universal screening. Therefore, the number of students (who need intervention) remains relatively the same, but the targeted students may differ."

After the assessment has been scored, students are placed in one of four tiers of the pyramid of achievement.

The base of the pyramid, tier one, is where the majority of students fall. They are the ones who perform well with just standards-based classroom learning.

Each additional tier builds on to the tier below it.

Tier two adds more needs-based learning, while tier three adds more intensive, individualized assistance. Tier four adds specialized learning programs.

"Based on their progress and individual areas of need, students may move in and out of the tiers and intervention settings," Gurley said. "It is with great delight that we often have students exit tier two and return to their regular academic settings, tier one. This is due to the deliberate interventions and the success they bring."

Each school’s Pyramid of Intervention team meets every six weeks to assess students’ progress.

"The committee determines if the student should continue with the targeted intervention or if adjustments should be made to the plan," Gurley said. "Parents are kept abreast of data, growth and the effect of the academic interventions. Parents have the opportunity to attend all (Pyramid of Intervention) meetings for their child, so they are highly involved in the process, if they choose to be."