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Dr. Howard McMackin
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Thank you Evelyn! I really appreciate hearing about secondary models. Our experience was that high school people were going to RTI workshops and coming back angry that the elementary models did not apply to them. When we at Empowered High Schools started presenting, it was amazing how much pent-up demand there was for a secondary model. It is reassuring to see some of our same elements in Evelyn Johnson’s wonderful post. For those of you who may be interested, I want to offer a short outline of some of the features in our system. For more, visit There you can see many graphics on what I mention below as well as a blog and forum. Here are some quickly described features of our secondary RTI model: • We believe in a systems approach to program improvement and RTI. Each of our processes supports the other process making a complex yet doable system. It is very hard work, but it is exciting and politically safe (unlike some reconstructed models that have been attempted in the past.) • Secondary schools must prepare students in many skills, processes and concepts. Therefore, there must be a data-driven system sufficiently adaptable to apply to any subject discipline—not just reading and math. We argue that a school be standards-based. In the Midwest, we tend to adopt ACT-CRSS standards and then fill-in with content standards. ACT has a huge research base behind its standards. Other examples are ACCESS ELL standards or national discipline standards for foreign language. However, any standards can be used. • We use a unique developmental benchmarking system that can describe student progress on each standard step by step. This is the heart of all our systems and processes within the school. • Summative assessments are designed to measure the level of student mastery on each separate course or program standard. Grades are too imprecise. This includes an inter-rater reliability process for teams using performance assessments. • A formative process is required to prepare each student to demonstrate mastery on the summative assessments. • We use course Professional Learning Teams and interdisciplinary Professional Learning Communities. The purpose of a PLT is to assure Tier One learning. This critical! • Teams develop performance sophistication on Nine Levels of Capacity. (Also, the levels explain what staff development a team needs to improve.) We do not expect that a school can develop all teams in lock-step. We have powerful teams that have been working for years that produce 95% mastery including all sub-groups, and teams which are just starting. • PLTs must have internal data to explain student achievement and predict external test data. Our teams get reports that display each student’s developmental progress towards mastery and a performance report by demographic group. This data will drive program improvement and RTI interventions. • Formative assessments include progress monitors, true formative assessments, and research-based strategies. • All teams use a formal, uniform Problem Solving Model for all decision-making to make program improvement and RTI decisions. • The RTI process follows the performance reports. Our teams must produce 80% mastery from all course-alike students to be considered a viable and effective course or program. If this is not done, the number of needy students overwhelms the school-wide interventions. • To improve student performance, PLTs must consider program improvements first. Simply put, these include improving curriculum and assessment alignment, more revealing summative assessments, and always, more effective, better scaffolded and engaging instruction. • To achieve 80% mastery or better, the PLT must design Tier Two interventions. Each team may have different protocols to assure that certain groups of students are accommodated. This similar to a medical model. These usually include mandatory assignment completion interventions and team managed Academic Support Centers. • School-wide interventions are designed by an Early Interventions Team. Groups of students are referred directly by viable teams and from other teams via a supervisor. These interventions usually can be classified within a behavioral system, a Social Emotional Learning system, and academic support centers for Tier Two and Tier Three with exit strategies. • At the building level, administration uses a value-added system which measures how demographic groups have improved year to year. Department performance goals are also set for each demographic group. We argue that demographic groups be based on entry performance related to the external measure (i.e. ACT Explore ) rather than subgroup (which can also be measured). Benchmarks tell us our progress. Benchmark are validated by their predictability on external tests. Besides causing increased student performance, the use of protocols creates highly professional, proud confident teachers. The above model cannot be managed by a traditional administrative leadership. It requires a new professional ladder. We have PLT Leaders, PLC Leaders, a Leaders Team with teacher Head of Leaders Team, EIT Leader, and teacher strategy coaches. Teachers become powerful advocates for improvement when empowered by a data-driven system, such as ours. It is most satisfying to see a school transformed from the bottom-up by empowered teachers. For more on leadership, see Comments: Thanks so much for reading! Feel free to contact me.