More than an hour of every day at Lincoln Elementary School is WIN Time, Principal Misty Straub said.
“WIN” stands for “What I Need” and, as the name implies, the students can fine-tune their reading and math skills based on what they need to work on. Those who are caught up with their grade level may receive enrichment material. There are also interventions for behavior when needed.
WIN Time is 30 minutes daily for mathematics and 40 minutes for reading, with an additional 10-20 minutes for students who need the most help. The sessions are not at the same time of day for every grade level.
So, when the school’s 35 second graders head to their 30-minute WIN Time for math, seven teacher aides from classrooms throughout the building join the two teachers as students are divided into nine intervention groups. The small groups are spread out around the building, with some students in classrooms, some in the library and others in the teacher workroom.
Kansas schools use the Multi-Tier System of Supports, where students are tested several times a year. Those who have reached the benchmark for their grade are on track and considered to be in Tier 1, those who need supplemental instruction are in Tier 2 and those who need more intensive intervention are in Tier 3. The goal is to have 80% of students on track, and no more than 5% in Tier 3.
The students are tested at the start of the school year, in December and again in the spring to determine whether they are on track or not. Teachers also take stock of the students’ progress throughout the school year, with quick assessments that may only take a minute or two for each child.
Tier 3 students receive an additional 10-20 minutes of WIN Time or have their WIN Time individually, one on one, Straub said.
Lincoln Elementary has three instructional coaches: Chelsea Mauler, the English language arts (ELA) coach; Carol McAtee, the math coach; and Lindsay Mazouch, the technology specialist. They work with the teachers and teacher aides to hone in on areas that need attention.
While a student in Tier 2 or 3 for reading might need extra work on phonics or fluency, those who are on track may be ready for reading enrichment time to build on their comprehension skills. Enrichment time may include a project to work on. For example, fifth graders at Lincoln Elementary have created a school newspaper and a blog.
Assistant Superintendent John Popp and Director of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser said the goal of enrichment isn’t to move capable students beyond their current grade level.
“We go deeper, not really further,” Reiser said.
Popp added, “When we talk about rigor, it’s deeper, not ahead to the next level.”
Using teacher aides throughout the school for specific skills means TAs are receiving more training than in the past, Popp said. That doesn’t mean they are doing work that should be left to licensed teachers, however.
The licensed (classroom) teacher may be handling the enrichment while the TAs are doing something more scripted, such as working on phonics, Popp explained.
Superintendent Khris Thexton agrees that the role of TAs has changed over the years. “Their focus has changed to be more of academic support in the classroom.” He added that aides and instructional coaches are “extremely valuable.”
Not a typical year
The current school year has not been typical. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, more time is spent disinfecting the work area after each small group session, Mauler commented. And there has been less mingling of the grades.
“In a non-COVID-year, a kindergartner may move into a first-grade group,” she explained. “This year we’re trying not to mix students.”
While Lincoln Elementary has coined the term “WIN Time” as its own, intervention periods are not unique to that school, Popp said. Straub and the Lincoln instructional coaches presented this information to the USD 428 Board of Education at a luncheon meeting on March 31.
Each month during the school year, a different attendance center is featured at a noon board meeting. The meetings were held at the schools until the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. They recently resumed but are now held at the District Education Center, located at 201 S. Patton Road, with staff from the school joining via video.