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The System of Supports (SOS) initiative at Evanston Township High School will begin to address student behavior in order for District 202 to meet Illinois’ requirement to implement a Response to Intervention (RTI) approach to student needs. SOS will also organize a team of community members and organizations to assist with the effort. (See story on page 28.)

SOS equals RTI,” Oscar Hawthorne, assistant superintendent/principal told the School Board at its meeting on Sept. 29.

The RTI model is a three-tiered, two-sided system that focuses increasingly intensive interventions on students as their need for support, both academic and behavioral, are determined to be more demanding.

On the academic side, ETHS has developed numerous resources to support students at each of the tiers spelled out by the RTI model.

The current AM Support and department resource centers provide Tier I support for “80-90 percent of students” needing assistance, said Mr. Hawthorne. In addition, the range of special support programs fulfill the need for more targeted Tier II efforts for “5-10 percent of students.”

These programs include the Academy, AVID, STAE and EXCEL, as well as the credit-recovery program that helps students make up insufficient credits to progress to the next grade.

Finally, students needing Tier III support would be referred to the student services Team and might include the need for “alternative placement,” said Mr. Hawthorne. “On the behavior side of the triangle … like most high schools … we have very little,” he acknowledged.

That is about to change, however, based on recent work that the District has been doing with Loyola University.

“They are guiding us through developing a Positive Behavior Support (PBS) model,” said Mr. Hawthorne. A group of about 22 teachers participated in training over the summer, he said, and the group “is still meeting in the process of developing a framework for PBS.”

Mr. Hawthorne said PBS is “not a canned program” but one that has “a slightly different look at every school and it stems from the core values that the school agrees to and develops. … We want to see a reduction in the number of discipline referrals and we want to have better attendance in the building.”

He said the program is less about changing student behavior than about “changing adult behaviors … how we as a staff will respond to student behavior and find better ways to recognize students who are doing the right thing.”

The use of the SOS model to meet RTI requirements will be further supported by a new management structure for SOS, to be implemented in the near future.

A core team of administrators, teacher leaders, professional developers, literacy coaches, psychologists and counselors will review and interpret data about student academics and behavior to develop an action plan.

Board member Gretchen Livingston said she wanted to make sure that the District was reaching out to parents and the community “in the broadest way possible” to establish that “we are on the same page” about core values associated with the behavior side of the RTI/SOS model. She said she was reassured by the inclusion of the community team that such input would be obtained.

Mr. Hawthorne emphasized that students were a “leg of SOS in terms of the planning.” He said he has issued an open invitation to students to join the Principal’s Advisory, and said that “if we get 100 students, we’ll group them in a way that I can deal will all one hundred.”

“My concern is about reaching those students and parents that are hardest to reach,” said board member Mary Wilkerson. She said students involved with community organizations such as Family Focus or the YMCA are easy to reach. “It’s the ones who are standing two corners away … who are reluctant to become involved … we need to make a special effort,” she said.

Mr. Hawthorne said, “We’re going to address that very issue . . . in the community team.” He said that, although there will be very recognizable organizations involved in the community team, “We are going to invite some folks whose voices have not been heard. … We are going to hear all voices.”