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Ellicott program pays dividends for Schriever students

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Ellicott Elementary School's revamped response to intervention program has paid dividends for more than 200 students since it was implemented last year, some of them right here at Schriever Air Force Base.

"They brought me in to talk about the program, and brought in my child's teachers, assistant principal, the Military and Family Life Counselor, everybody involved with my child's education," said 1st Lt. Jennifer Ray, 50th Space Wing Chaplain Corps. "I just thought that was phenomenal. We were all in this meeting to help this one individual, and that individual happened to be my kid and it just warmed my heart."

Ray knew her children might need some extra help when they arrived at Schriever in November since they were just starting kindergarten and had spent most of the school year traveling and being home-schooled.

"From the end of September until we got here in November, they were out of school," Ray said. "We home-schooled them throughout that time and they were learning things, but not necessarily what they needed to know for kindergarten, or for Ellicott."

A full assessment by the school was difficult to get scheduled due to the timing of the Ray family's arrival. The children enrolled just after Thanksgiving, and only had a couple of weeks to get acclimated before the district had its winter break.

Ray said even after such a short period, she knew that extra help was needed. She just didn't know where to find it.

"I was the only one working at the time, so paying for tutoring was a question," Ray said. "And because I live on base, we're outside the zone for head start. The MFLC had been working with them at the School Age Program and told me they just needed some extra help. I said, 'OK great, they just need help. How do I get help?'"

The answer came from Susan Flores, assistant principal at Ellicott Elementary, who suggested they begin the RTI process.

"The first thing [Ray] said to me was, 'You're doing this just for my child?' and I told her that's what we do [with the program]," Flores said. "When parents sit down and meet with us, it's all about their student."

Flores said when she arrived at Ellicott two years ago, she discovered that the school had a RTI program in the past, but that it had been put on the back burner in recent years. She put a team together, polled the staff to get their opinion on where the RTI program was, and where it could or should be and went to work putting a new process together.

"I met with our intervention team and asked them how they assess students, determine where they are [academically] and how they know which intervention groups they need to be in," Flores said. "We put a really strict testing schedule together, that became my first plan of order."

The testing schedule gave staff data that allowed them to analyze where each student's needs were and what, if any, intervention groups they might need to be assigned to. Additionally, Flores wanted to put a program together that could be applied across the district without forcing parents to "learn a new language."

"If you're a parent and you have a child in middle school and one in elementary school and you do a RTI, it shouldn't look totally different," Flores said.

This consistency can be especially helpful for military families getting ready for a permanent change of station because the RTI paperwork they take with them is a legal plan and gives the school district they move to a detailed view of the child's current progress.

"I tell military parents, if they get orders [to leave] to call me so we can get together and update the RTI plan before they go," Flores said. "That way they leave with the most current process we're doing, and it's a legal plan so when they take it [to their new school] they're not restarting a process for their child."

Ray said had Flores not stepped in, her child might have been retained in kindergarten next year.

"Mrs. Flores stepped in and said, 'We're not going to retain, we're just going to do the work to help [them succeed]'," Ray said. "She was so helpful."

Even after spending just a few months in the program, Ray said she has already seen the difference, both academically and in her child's personality.

"[We] just got the report card and there's been improvement in pretty much everything," Ray said. "In just a little time we saw the progression and coming alive and being herself again, like it was before we moved. It's pretty awesome."

Flores said the Ray family's experience with the program is representative of other participants as well, according to feedback received to date.

"I haven't had any negative complaints," Flores said. "I ran 286 RTI meetings last year and so far everyone's been receptive. I haven't had one complaint, but if we do, it will be worth listening to because if something's not working then we'll listen to the feedback and see what the concern is."

The universally positive feedback isn't the only thing letting Flores know the program is working, as it was a big reason why she recently earned the 2015 Outstanding Assistant Principal of the Year for Colorado.

Flores said her recognition demonstrates a commitment to excellence shared by the entire staff at Ellicott. It also lets people know that just because Ellicott is a smaller district; it doesn't mean their children won't get a quality education.

"They have moved heaven and earth to try to make sure my children get what they need," Ray said. "They are getting a private school education and attention at Ellicott. They have done a phenomenal job with my kids."

Housing residents who want more information about the RTI program, or the district in general, will have the opportunity to speak with Flores, as well as, Ellicott Elementary Principal Joe Torrez, Ellicott High School Principal Mark McPherson and Ellicott School District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Cullen during a meet and greet event 5:30 p.m. April 22 at the Tierra Vista community center. Residents should RSVP for the event with the TVC property manager by April 17.
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