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Never has there been a time when a responsive model for K-12 student success has been more necessary. Two student support leaders met to share their ideas and expertise for student support professionals to consider for the new school year.

Recently, I sat down with my colleague Deborah Hardy, Intellispark senior advisor, to reimagine a responsive services model for K-12 student success as we face the realities of COVID-19 and its impact on our day-to-day practice for supporting students and their success. 

In a reactive, triage-oriented environment, we solve problems quickly and tend to focus only on the precipitating “event”; however, utilizing the Iceberg Model will ensure we are responsive in our approach by considering patterns of behavior, structures, and mental models. Examining this model helps us think about our values, beliefs, and assumptions about education when we are designing creative and effective solutions for our students.

As educators, we are keenly aware of the myriad of “hot topic” initiatives. We posit three staple initiatives that are crucial for whole child support: Equity, Trauma-Informed, and Resiliency/Solution-Focused practices.

Three areas to support the whole child: 

Equity — It is imperative that we as educators begin our racial-consciousness journey and make it a regular practice to reflect on our position within the educator and societal system and how we impact the students and families we serve.  How are we evaluating systems from an equity lens to ensure all students have access, participation, and success?  

Trauma-Informed ApproachTrauma can come packaged in the big “T” or the little “t”; hence, we must have student-centered approaches in our classrooms and support services to identify and acknowledge such external factors to provide support and healing when appropriate. How are you embedding “get to KNOW” your student activities at the outset of the year and learning how students’ home lives shape how they present themselves at school?

Resiliency/Solution-Focused Practices — Every student has assets and strengths that can be leveraged and utilized as resources to help them experience success. How are we documenting those assets and incorporating them into the student’s Individualized Student Support Plan?  How are we ensuring ALL members of the student care team are aware of these strengths in order to build the student’s confidence and capabilities and help buttress and reinforce the work you do? 

While a student’s care team may be doing many of the above strategies, how do we get the student support team to do these in concert with one another and provide whole child engagement?

Begin by focusing on a differentiated delivery model with three levels of support:

Level 1: Design global systems to identify which students are not engaged or need additional support.  

Level 2: Design group supports that support your institution’s needs. Ensure that during this potentially remote time you embed pre/post needs assessments to identify curricular, social emotional or other student support needs.

Level 3: Identify the most vulnerable students for individualized instruction support, counseling, or individualized learning plan creation. Consider the entire care team and which team members could be transformational for a student in need.

All staff members (teachers, student services, and teaching assistants) should employ a differentiated delivery model. 

Following are some effective approaches for accommodating each level of support:

Level 1:  Offer personalized ways of showing content mastery and allow multimodality for student projects.  Identify student learning styles and foster students’ success through student choice.  

Level 2:  Break students up into smaller learning groups and make sure to differentiate the skill level so students share the learning responsibility. Have a clear understanding of what supports various student groups will need and offer enrichment or support to meet those diverse needs.  

Level 3:  Assess for understanding and encourage students struggling the most to schedule 1-1 support either through a peer tutor or directly with the teacher.  Students need moments of success to build momentum, so find ways to encourage and incentivize students to seek individual assistance.  

Through these accommodating strategies, educators establish practices that are efficient and allow more effective use of time. Such a delivery model is the cornerstone for creating a responsive approach that is foundational to intentional practice. 

Never has there been a time when individualized student support plans are more necessary. Designing and authoring such programs are crucial steps to ensuring whole child engagement. Documenting interventions and supports is essential. The ability for all team members to view what supports are offered to and completed by students as well as assigned to staff is critical. Knowing, appreciating, and supporting each learner is vital for the success of all students. 

These models, frameworks, and strategies form the blueprint for a K-12 student success model and successful reentry to an environment that may not look as familiar as that of yesteryear. Now is the time to truly innovate and provide a level of holistic student support that allows us all to play in concert and care for every student, every day.

Matthew Liberatore

Dr. Matt Liberatore, LCPC is the director of professional learning and student services for Township High School District 214, past president of the Illinois School Counselor Association, and senior advisor to Intellispark.