Struggling Students, Response to Intervention


One of the major frameworks that teachers and administrators use to organize their remediation efforts for struggling students is called Response to Intervention, or RTI for short.

Through a series of assessments, remediations, and behavior corrections, students are organized into three tiers:

Tier 1 – Students who are in general education classes. They are assessed consistently, but need no remediation.

Tier 2 – Students who are struggling, usually do to a lack of background knowledge compared to their peers. They spend about half of class time in a general classroom and half being “pulled out” by a remediation teacher to receive instruction in the skills they lack that are keeping them from staying on pace. If done correctly, a student should move up from Tier 2.

Tier 3 – Students who are profoundly struggling or have diagnosed learning or behavioral disabilities. These students spend the majority, if not all, of their time in self-contained classes with a team of teachers. Moving up from Tier 3 is rare but it does happen.

There are specific intervention strategies that go along with each tier. If a school or district is using RTI, most teachers and administrators have received significant training not only in the framework but also the instructional skills needed under the program.

If your child is at an RTI school and you are approached to allow remediation (a move to Tier 2 or 3), here is what you should ask.

What input do I have? – Yes, you should be approached. It’s rare that a parent is not updated regularly under the RTI program and most moves or changes need to be approved, especially if the student has an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

What data supports this move? – RTI is based heavily in data, not only with major state assessments but also with grades and thorough, periodic assessments that are given by the school to inform their instruction. Ask to see this data and how it indicates that your child needs more support.

What specific interventions will my child be receiving? – You want to know what your child’s school day will look like. If they will be spending a significant amount of time with a pullout teacher, ask to meet them. They will be your child’s most important instructor.

What is the forecast? – RTI is designed to help students receive the support they need in order to make educational progress. Students move up and down the tiers all the time. Ask for an estimation of what can be expected of your child in the near future.




Problem: Your child’s backpack has been deemed a disaster area by the Department of Homeland Security. Special forces units are currently sweeping his bedroom looking for last week’s homework. And, worst of all, missing assignments and lack of notes have taken a toll on his grades.

Solution: “Some kids are just messy” isn’t an excuse. And while it may be true that brilliant minds can’t be bothered to keep things neat, Einstein still found a way to turn his work in. Luckily, organization and note taking doesn’t have to seem like a chore. Here are some ideas to suggest to your child:

  • Binder with planner/calendar
  • Set aside time to organize
  • Look into specific note taking systems
  • Don’t forget the devices
  • Binder with planner/calendar

This will always be the first thing a teacher recommends for a messy, forgetful student (if they don’t require them for everyone already). Buy a 3-ring binder with one plastic folder for each class (they’re more durable). Stick in a planner/calendar and a pouch for supplies. For extreme cases, contact your child’s teachers and have them review the notes taken on the planner for accuracy and sign them. You do the same when they come home. That way the student learns not to try to put anything over on the adults.

Set aside time to organize

It’s the rare student that decides for themselves when it’s time to clean up. They need help. So make it a point of regularly setting aside time to remind your child to clean out their backpack, binder, locker, room, etc. Once a week will probably work. Program a reminder into your phone if you have to.

Look into specific note taking systems

Although note taking skills are technically the domain of the teacher, you can step in if that ball is being dropped. There are plenty of organized note taking systems out there that make taking notes easy. The one used by Cornell University is particularly popular. So are certain graphic organizers and other diagrams.

Don’t forget the devices

Backpacks and lockers are all well and good, but in some schools they are also obsolete. They’ve been replaced by devices in a 1:1 or BYOD scheme. If you child is a heavy user of technology in school, don’t forget to help them organize their digital data as well. Make sure folders are being used and data that doesn’t need to be saved is deleted.

Do you have any other organization tips for children? Share them in the comments section or share this article on your favorite social network to start a conversation of your own.

What To Do When Your Child Gets Frustrated In School


Even involved, engaged parents can be surprised when bad grades start showing up on their child’s report cards. As far as they knew, everything was fine.

Bad grades are the last sign of a child struggling in school. By then, their levels of frustration and futility might have reached a point of no return. The trick is figuring out that your child needs help before the disappointing grades start arriving.

Here are some signs to do just that:

Mood swings just before or after school

Just like adults heading to the DMV, children get irritable when faced with an unpleasant experience. If that moodiness is coming just before or just after school, that unpleasant experience is school itself. If you notice this pattern, try to get them to open up about why they’re upset. Hopefully you can get specific about what’s troubling them at school. It might be academic struggling or something even more serious, like being bullied. Just know that it might take more than one attempt to get them to open up.

Avoidance of school discussion

On the best days, children aren’t exactly conversational masters. “How was school today?” is often met with “Fine”. It takes the highly trained ear of a parent to discern whether they are actually avoiding talking about school, but if they are, it’s a sure sign of struggle. Keep pressing, as casually as possible, getting increasingly specific as you go. If you suspect something, start talking to teachers and looking up your child’s grades online.

Changes in friends or activities

Is your child not interested in basketball anymore, even though they were obsessed with it last month? Do they talk about new friends whose names you’ve never heard before? Any drastic changes in behavior usually have root causes and you want to rule out any of the serious ones, including underperformance in school, bullying, or drug use. That’s not to say that students can’t try new things or meet new people, but listen to your parental radar. If something doesn’t add up, start finding the underlying cause.

Listen to the teacher

If you’ve established a good, open relationship with your child’s teachers, they should feel free to drop you an email when they see something amiss. Their motivation in reaching out to you is not just to enlist your help in addressing any problem behaviors, but also to give you a heads-up that changes are afoot. They see your child in a completely different environment than you do and can tell when a good kid is starting to go south—and can usually tell you why.

The Next Level

Did your child exhibit these signs or others before you realized they needed academic help? What happened? Educate us in the comments below.

If you thought this article brought up some valuable points, please share it among your social networks using the buttons.

And if you feel your child needs a little more help to succeed in school, please find out more about Athena’s services and how they can help you using this link.


Summer Job Advice for your Child

friends-1084598_1920For many, one of the classic rites of passage in adolescence is working a summer job. It’s perhaps the first step on the way toward adult responsibility. Kids come out with a paycheck and experience. Parents come out with the stress of realizing their child is about to leave the nest.

That being said; there’s a lot of guidance that a parent can provide during the summer that can lay the groundwork for a successful school year and a lifetime of work. Here are some things to keep in mind.

They aren’t going to be responsible

You would like your child to dutifully stop by the bank on the way home from a job to deposit their paycheck into some long-term, interest-bearing account. They won’t do that and stop thinking they will. They’re going to blow it on electronics, junk food, and hanging out with their friends. There’s nothing wrong with that.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t a responsible person overall. Kids are going to be kids, especially when they get their first taste of “serious money.” They still get all of their assignments in at school, right? They get themselves up for work, right? If they aren’t, they weren’t ready for a job in the first place.

Don’t let them slip academically

We’ve covered a few strategies about minimizing “brain drain” during the summer, including making sure students keep reading for pleasure and providing learning experiences for them during your family’s summer activities.

Just because a summer job can be a valuable learning experience in itself, don’t let those ideas fall by the wayside. There’s a difference between keeping the brain active with a job and keeping the brain sharp in anticipation of the new school year.

Don’t forget the ramp-up

We’ve also talked before about how important it is to have a period before school starts where the student prepares for the new year. Bed times should be scaled back. Kids shouldn’t be allowed to sleep until noon. In other words, days should become more structured, at least a week before school starts.

This might be aided or hindered by the summer job. Maybe it’s kept the student on a regular schedule throughout the summer. On the other hand, maybe it’s a night job, and they’ve been completely thrown off. If it’s possible, pull back on the reins.

Don’t forget the fun

It’s way too early in your student’s working life for them to equate a job with a meaningless slog with no fulfillment. Summer jobs are supposed to be a fun way to earn a little extra money. Everything else is gravy. If it’s not fun, don’t let them do it. If it’s taking too much of their free time, help them scale back. If they aren’t spending any time with their friends, help them figure out ways to make that happen. Summer is supposed to be a break, even if they enter the working world.

Planning For Summer



The words “plan” and “summer” don’t seem like they go together. It’s every family’s biggest chunk of free time so it doesn’t seem like a plan is necessary or wanted. And maybe that’s the case. If so, consider yourselves one of the lucky ones.

For most of us, the hectic schedules continue—perhaps even increasing in severity. After all, now you have to fit in camp and vacation(s) and sports and… If that sounds like you, here are some hints on how to plan the summer.

Ramp up to school

If it’s possible, don’t schedule the major vacation or camp right before school starts. It’s too much of a shocking change to go from lounging by the pool or fishing at a national park to being confined in a classroom for eight hours.

Instead, schedule the big things in a way that gives some lead-time for the start of school, even if it’s just a week. That gives you an opportunity to adjust the kids back to a reasonable sleep schedule and perhaps prime their brains for the school year with some of the ideas we had about keeping kids sharp over the summer.

Do something new

If summer follows a predictable routine every year, eventually it doesn’t seem special anymore. Everyone just goes through the motions. It might as well be October!

Make it a point of trying something new every summer, whether that’s a trip destination or simply a new hobby. Maybe it doesn’t work out. Maybe it becomes one of your new favorite summertime activities. Either way, summer will feel fresh again.

Give everyone ownership

Schedules are sometimes dominated by one person’s needs or a particular aspect of family life. Perhaps you are locked into always going to see Aunt Edna every summer because she can’t travel to see you. Perhaps a kid’s swimming camp throws off the rest of the summer schedule.

Some of those things are unavoidable. For the rest of the time, give everyone a chunk to do with what they choose. Let the kids choose a trip. Give dad time for a golf weekend (the family can still come and hang by the pool). With this, there is less feeling that the summer got away from everybody and less resentment that someone always gets priority.

The plan is just a guideline

Some of the best memories are those that didn’t go according to plan. Yes, you might have something scheduled at the end of a long drive, but when is the next time you’ll have an opportunity to see the world’s largest acorn?

The beauty of summer is that there’s usually plenty of time for everything. Yes, plane schedules and other things just can’t be moved without penalty, but other than that the sweetest words on any summer day are “what should we do today?”