RtI E-News: May 2015 - 
Success Stories


Indian Community School

Where you come from makes you who you are. That’s why the Indian Community School places emphasis on the balance between heritage and academics. American Indian identity is at each student’s core, and the school reinforces - in them - the community’s core values: Bravery, Humility, Love, Loyalty, Respect, Truth, and Wisdom. Students are not caught between what they learn and who they are: the school intertwines both with equal importance. The school has found that implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) enabled them to help students embody their values, without compromising their identity.

Prior to becoming a PBIS school we were using a model called RTC (Responsible Thinking Classroom).  In the RTC model, students who were disruptive were asked to leave their own classes and go to RTC to think about how they could have acted differently.  What we found out during the RTC years was that students were missing a ton of classroom instruction - and what they may have learned in the RTC room did not carry over throughout the day.  Culturally this did not resonate with our staff either, it was like we were banishing the student from his/her community. It seemed like we were sending them away to get “fixed”. 

In the 2010-2011 school year, there were 3,538 write ups or incidents which equaled 70,760 minutes of lost instructional time. In 2011-2012 (our interim year where we got rid of RTC but had not switched to PBIS) there were 536 incidents with 10,720 minutes of lost instructional time. In 2012-2013, our first year of  Tier 1 PBIS, we reduced our ODRs to 290, with 5,800 instructional minutes lost, and 687 minors with 0 minutes of lost instructional time – because students didn’t leave the classroom. A comparison chart of RTC vs. PBIS has been shown to staff, parents, and board members. Everyone is in full agreement that we needed to change and we did. Losing roughly 6,000 minutes of instruction over 71,000 minutes has had a huge impact on the learning environment at Indian Community School.

Students who are currently in first grade are our first students to not know what RTC is. When the first graders started K4 it was our first year of PBIS.  Looking at our first grade, it is our strongest group academically. They are the only grade level in our school that consistently scores above the norm grade level mean in both reading and math. The belief is that if students are in the class they can learn. We hope to see this trend continue.

Culturally we feel that PBIS meets the needs of our students. The whole staff feels empowered to talk to all students throughout the building (they know the skills and the specific language to use with the students). There is a better sense of community. We are all here to help all the students, just as the aunties, uncles, grandmas, and grandpas would have done in a more traditional time. We embrace conferencing with students and encouraging them to have a good day. We also can see the impact of reteaching until the skill gets learned. Students do not have to be perfect. They are learning to grow as individuals. This process allows students, staff, and families to have a partnership of improvement that is positive - that is working.



Children hold our future in their hands. For the leaders and staff in Dodgeville, this isn’t just a platitude. Neither do they merely wish for it to be so. They are dedicated to shaping children who “…are caring, responsible, capable, self-assured world citizens…” Dodgeville staff and leaders understand that there are several pillars necessary to support meaningful education: the wellbeing of students themselves; the involvement of community; and a conducive environment. The district has devised concrete action steps designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills to confidently meet the challenges the future brings.

This past February, Dodgeville School District opened their doors to schools/districts across the state for the purpose of sharing their integrated implementation journey. Visitors were greeted by Superintendent Dr. Jeff Jacobson, administrators, staff, and students. John Humphries, Director of Pupil Services, began the morning by providing a historical perspective of legislative initiatives that were supported by educational research at the national and state level. Initiatives that were cited as efforts to support improving student outcomes included: “A Nation at Risk” which led to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and accountability; the “Read to Lead” task force which led to statewide PALS screening assessments at the K-2 grade levels; the “Measure of Effective Teaching (MET)” study which led to Educator Effectiveness, SLOs, and the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS); and new assessments. 

Dr. Jacobson clearly articulated that instead of resisting change due to the new initiatives, Dodgeville has chosen to EMBRACE the opportunities by braiding together all of the initiatives into a single package with a focus on student outcomes. Julie Piper, principal of Dodgeville Elementary School, has been a part of the Dodgeville implementation journey from the initial stages of looking at NCLB data to the marriage of RtI and PBIS into a Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS). Paramount to the success and sustainability of the framework, Dodgeville recognized the importance of staff buy-in and positive school culture, as well as structures that needed to be put into place to facilitate implementation changes.

Dodgeville believes the approach of “we are all in this together,” seems to have had the best impact with respect to creating buy-in and a positive school culture. Dodgeville staff worked with two common SLO goals which created a shared vision, mission, and values. The common goals also placed an emphasis on systemic and systematic practices at grade level, across grade levels – including extension supports. To support continuous improvement, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) were well established and created an ongoing process in which educators would be able to work collaboratively through action research and collective inquiry to achieve better results for the students they serve.

Dodgeville staff spent the remainder of the morning discussing a continuum of supports within their MTSS framework. They also pointed out that buildings were at different implementation levels within the district but everyone focused on a common vision. Dodgeville places a strong emphasis on the importance of an effective universal/tier l level of support. Staff shared data and discussed systemic and systematic academic and behavioral expectations, practices, and procedures that led to predictable routines throughout the day, and common language for Dodgeville students. Staff emphasized how impactful it has been to address both academics and behavior together. They believe the clear expectations, structures, and routines offered through PBIS have been instrumental in the effectiveness of their academic supports.

This open house was a wonderful example of what districts across the state of Wisconsin have been doing to support each other with this journey. The district applauds the collective efforts of sharing and learning together for the common goal of “Every Child a Graduate, College and Career Ready.”



One of the only things we can depend on is change – but change is hard. When student demographics change in a school, status quo beliefs and practices are challenged. Schools respond to these changes in different ways. Some blame the students and keep doing what they’ve always done, even though it’s not effective anymore. Some want to save “disadvantaged” students and give them affirmation without much in the way of expectations. Others want to spearhead meaningful change, but don’t know where to start, or even how. Saukville Elementary faced these challenges head on. They took a hard look at their practices, reframed how they saw students, chose a course of action, and took ownership of the process. This is their story.

Saukville Elementary is a rural-suburban school in the Port Washington-Saukville School District, serving nearly 300 kindergarten through grade 4 students. The majority of these students are white (87%). Of this population, 30% are eligible for subsidized lunch and 16% percent are students with disabilities.

Over the past 10 years Saukville Elementary – like many schools across the state – has experienced a change in student demographics. Most notably, the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch has increased steadily, from 10% to 30%. Fewer students came to Saukville Elementary with the same access to school-readiness opportunities as before, as observed in an increase of teacher-reported behavioral concerns and learning difficulties. “Business as usual” at Saukville Elementary would not suffice to meet the needs of their present population. Staff knew that something needed to change, but were unclear as to where to leverage that change to make a real difference for their students.

Changing student demographics present a real challenge to schools. How the school responds makes all the difference. One potential response is for staff to place the blame on the students and their families, leaving staff feeling increasingly frustrated and hopeless in the face of the challenge. Another response is to be sympathetic to children’s challenging conditions, raise affective support, and lower learning expectations. Yet another response is to be empathetic, continue to hold on to high expectations for all, and change the actions of the adults in the building.

Saukville Elementary embraced option three.

Use of Data With Cultural Competence and Commitment to all

The principal and school psychologist worked together to develop a cohesive multi-pronged approach to school improvement. One key component of this approach was developing a culture of using data in collaborative teams to inform decisions. Creating this shift required a change in schedules so that teams could meet on a scheduled and regular basis. Staff also began to use consistent protocols to move discussions away from admiring problems and toward developing solutions. The school psychologist and principal played a critical role in guiding teams initially to learn new team processes through consistent, clear messaging and coaching. These leaders helped staff to solidify these new ways of working with patience, feedback, and perseverance over time.

In busy schools, the use of data and protocols can sometimes become just another “thing to do.” Schools are at risk of using data as hammers and saws, without grounding the work in a strong vision and commitment to serving all students. To this end, Saukville Elementary staff developed and use the following mission, vision, and collective commitments to guide their work with data, with each other, and with students and their families:

Mission: Educate all students to their fullest potential in a safe, caring, and productive learning environment

Vision: All students, parents/guardians, and staff will be treated with respect, as we work together to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of all students

Collective commitment to be:

  • Active members of our professional teams
  • Willing to communicate and problem solve when faced with difficulties
  • Positive, student-focused and flexible with our time and other resources
  • Open and honest with parents and colleagues
  • Willing to share ideas, learn from others, and make adjustments based on student data and needs
  • Understanding of the fact that all individuals are unique, and to treat everyone with the respect they deserve, as a valued member of our school community

These servant values, coupled with skillful data practices, have helped staff change the trajectory of student achievement at Saukville Elementary.

Promising Results

Along with reductions in office discipline referrals and suspensions, the school has realized gains in students’ academic achievement as well, raising the percentage of students reading at a proficient or advanced level (figure 1) while reducing the percentage of students reading at the minimal level of performance (figure 2).



These outcomes have come as a result of strong leadership and the hard work and commitment of staff over time. The culturally competent use of data is just one of several key leverage changes the school has embraced. Saukville Elementary is changing the way it “does school” to meet changing student needs, one of the hallmarks of a culturally responsive multi-level system of support


Onalaska: Culturally Responsive Practices (Video)

Having good relationships with your students can help you be a more effective educator. That’s easy when you share the same kind of background as your students – but what about your students who are from a different culture? Reaching them is just as important, if not more. What can you do to relate to ALL students? It starts with examining your own beliefs and attitudes, so that you can openly learn about other cultures and values. Only then can you build the bridges of trust needed to form effective relationships with students of all cultures. This video from the Onalaska School District shows just how that can be done. Start the video by clicking here.


Franklin Elementary (Video)

As a teacher, you naturally want all your students to succeed. At Franklin School in West Allis/West Milwaukee their directive is much more concrete: All Children MUST Succeed. As you think about your students – especially those who have to overcome additional obstacles like poverty and disability – you may be wondering how any school would be able to live up to that expectation. Franklin has shown that it is possible. Their success has been built on the framework of a culturally responsive multi-level system of support. As you will see, the journey involved collaboration, trust, high expectations, and a solid belief in their students – and it continues to grow. Learn more about their story here.