Beating the Odds: Analyzing the Data

by Dan Vaara (
North Ohio Elementary School (Gaylord Community Schools)

North Ohio Elementary is a k-3 building with 425 students and a free and reduced lunch count of 57%. The following plan took place over the past three school years.

It was easy to go from year to year doing business relatively the same way. There is something to be said for the status quo. Students, teachers, and the staff were comfortable with curriculum, schedules and the ease of daily routine. Student achievement remained constant and some areas showed improvement. But the questions still remained: (1) How can we reach our lowest achieving students? (2) How can we improve student achievement as a whole? It was evident the time had come for change. We needed to shift our philosophy as to how we looked at our students. We needed to change the structure of how we used and maximized our resources. We had to think outside the box and do some things that were very different from the way we had done business for the past number of years. This is what we did:

The Process Beginning

Change isn’t always welcomed, so starting out slow was key. Our staff was accustomed to analyzing data; mostly MEAP and DIBELS. We noticed at that time one grade level that continued to struggle academically in reading. The first changes came about; reallocating title one personnel and moving from a pull out model of special education to nearly full inclusion. In order to help the struggling grade level and to prevent this from happening again we equally assigned our title one assistants to first, second, and third. Each grade level was allocated a title one assistant for a daily forty five minute guided reading period within a ninety minute language arts block. In addition, our resource room teachers were assigned to inclusion for guided reading at the same times where needed. This change, although small, was met with mild resistance. Past practice had been to put the biggest focus of title one help in first grade and mostly pull-out for resource room.

Next Steps

The next step was to create a master schedule that would allow for a daily ninety minute language arts block per grade level and Tier 2 intervention time for reading and math in first through third grades. This proved to be cumbersome but workable and pushed us to use staff members to the utmost efficiency. As a result of the new master schedule, we were able to put the following programs in place as supported by our data:

Power Hour- We did not have an intervention program in place that met the diverse needs of all of our students. We addressed that by creating a new program that we called Power Hour. The first step was to screen our students using DIBELS. Students not meeting benchmark were given the Quick Phonics Screener and/or MLPP assessments. The results of the assessments were analyzed by a team who placed the “at risk” students into small groups based on specific skill deficits. These groups were led by classroom teachers and experienced reading instructors. In order for us to keep the groups small, all available staff were used from our music teacher to our librarian. Benchmark students were placed into larger groups for reading skill practice and extensions. Power Hour operated four days per week for a half hour and it ran from early October through the end of the school year. We did one Power Hour for each grade level (1st-3rd).

Research based resources used for Power Hour intervention groups:

Small group (strategic and intensive) Benchmark
Phonics For Reading P.A.L.S
Sound Partners Readers’ Theatre
Six Minute Solution literature circles
FCRR Florida Center for Reading Research  

Specific teaching resources were assigned, depending on the skill need of the group. For example, students with deficiencies in letter sound association were taught using Sound Partners.

Math Interventions- Our previous system provided each teacher with a title assistant thirty minutes daily which they used for math stations or to re-teach math lessons. This process ran contrary to what research says about how students learn math. We know that students who struggle in math must be taught basic foundation skills. Students were identified by teacher observation and assessment. Groups were formed by grade level and by skill need. Each title assistant led groups of 5 students. Students engaged in research based interventions designed to improve their conceptual understanding of basic foundation skills such as number sense, operations, etc.

Program Monitoring


  • Student progress is carefully tracked in student intervention folders that travel with the student from year to year. All reading data, including the interventions that were used, get recorded and monitored for effectiveness. This information is used for individualized student programming.
  • Strategic and Intensive students are progress monitored weekly or bi-weekly. This information allows us to flexibly move students to appropriate groups that meet their needs. In other words if a strategic student reaches benchmark they will be moved to a benchmark group. The goal is always to get as many students to benchmark as possible.


  • Student progress is tracked through assessment and observation. As students progress they may end up in another group or even out of the program as new students are identified as needing intervention. As new students are identified as needing assistance, the teacher fills out a form that is given to the title assistants that they use to drive their research based interventions. The title assistants communicate progress to the homeroom teachers through the use of intervention tracking sheets that follow the student from year to year.

Additional individual interventions

  • Weekly grade level meetings are held to address student concerns and to identify those in need of interventions and to assess the effectiveness of the interventions.
  • Monthly (or as needed) child study meetings are conducted by a team that looks in depth at “at risk” student profiles regarding current interventions and future planning. A follow up meeting a month or two later is conducted to analyze the effectiveness of the interventions and adjustments are made as necessary.
  • Literacy groups are used in grades one and two as a tier three intervention for students needing additional reading instruction. These groups are led by our reading specialist.
  • Read Naturally lab was available daily to first through third graders for twenty minutes at the end of the day. Parent volunteers were trained to monitor students using the Read Naturally program.
  • Kindergarten students receive tier two and tier three in their classrooms. Each kindergarten classroom has an assistant for about three hours per day.


Initially the changes were a struggle. People had become accustomed to the way they had operated for many years. However, we felt that there was room for improvement and that we could better maximize our resources to improve student learning. Despite resistance from staff, we stuck to the plan and recent data (DIBELS, MEAP, common assessments, NWEA, DRA, etc.) shows significant improvement in student achievement.

-Dan Vaara- Principal
-Kari McKenzie-Reading Specialist

View the PowerPoint presentation: 
North Ohio Elementary - Beating the Odds