Wisconsin RtI News May, 2014


Wittenberg-Birnamwood and Wausau East High Schools:
Using Early Warning Systems for Universal Screening

The conventional belief that students drop out of school for personal reasons - like drug use, pregnancy, or lack of internal motivation - has been disproven (Jerald, 2006). Existing data, such as attendance, behavior, and course performance, are the indicators most frequently used for universal screening for potential drop out or late graduation. In fact, students can be identified as early as sixth grade using predictive data that schools already collect (Balfanz, 2007). Montgomery County Public Schools are able to predict which students are off track for graduation by using first grade attendance data (West, 2013). A robust universal screening process not only identifies students at risk for dropout or late graduation, but also screens for college and career readiness.  

To assist educators in tracking data indicators, schools are using databases generally known as early warning systems. One example is the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Dropout Early Warning System (DEWS). Another example is the National High School Center’s Early Warning System (NHSC EWS), which can easily be used in conjunction with the DEWS scores.

Two Wisconsin high schools are collaborating with the Wisconsin RtI Center by sharing their experiences and learning while screening students for academic and behavioral risk through their EWS processes.  Both schools are implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports as part of their RtI framework.

Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School (WBHS) has been integrating their EWS for universal screening into their culturally responsive multi-level system of support over the past two school years. WBHS has found the Early Warning System Implementation Guide from the National High School Center to be a crucial resource in guiding their school leadership team in implementation of a strong collaborative process.  This resource can be found here.

Wausau East High School has begun the integration work during this past school year in collaboration with the Wisconsin RtI Center to utilize the Wisconsin DEWS data in four domains: attendance, discipline, mobility, and WKCE. Wausau East is using this data to inform their use of the National High School Center’s Early Warning System and has found the Wisconsin DEWS Action Guide as another helpful resource, found here.


Balfanz, R., Herzog, L., & Mac Iver, D. J., (2007)  “Preventing student disengagement and keeping students on the graduation path in urban middle-grades schools: early identification and effective interventions” Educational Psychologist.

Jerald, C. (2006). Identifying Potential Dropouts: Key Lessons for Building an Early Warning Data System. New York, NY: Achieve & Jobs for the Future.

West, T. (2013). Just the Right Mix: Identifying Potential Dropouts in Montgomery County Public Schools Using an Early Warning Indicators Approach. Montgomery County, MD. 

National High School Center  

Wisconsin DPI Dropout Early Warning System


Culturally Responsive Practices Corner

Culturally Responsive Practices (CRP) are integral to the Center’s mission. Being Culturally Responsive means helping students develop a strong sense of self, along with the skills needed to thrive in a school or work environment. This means VALIDATING and AFFIRMING the vibrant cultural diversity of individuals in your classroom, while BUILDING understanding and BRIDGING gaps between home culture and school culture. In this section, we celebrate successes and spread knowledge about CRP practices. 

Learning Sites

There was a celebration held on May 7 for the Wisconsin RtI Center’s partner learning sites: Hawthorne School and Onalaska. Along with Culturally Responsive staff, Andreal Davis and Michelle Belnavis, participants reflected on a year marked by collaboration and success. 

Hawthorne described their cultural learning experiences including a visit to the East Madison Community Center, attending a Hmong New Year celebration, and participating in “Read Your Heart Out” (founded by Michelle Belnavis!). They also celebrated HARAMBEE, which means “working together.” Included in their work was cultural and classroom imaging – creating images of how they see themselves – to help all students have a sense of belonging by seeing their images in school.

Onalaska discussed the “seven experiences” which are activities teachers can participate in while taking their cultural responsiveness journey. These experiences include: articles, book studies, coaching, conferences, community site visits, guest speakers, and school visits. Included as part of their journey, teachers learned to “Know Thyself” by examining their preconceived notions, in order to “Know Your Students.” They also created affirming images, similar to Hawthorne’s cultural and classroom imaging to help students gain a sense of self and belonging. Onalaska also participated in training with Dr. Shelley Zion, an expert on Culturally Responsive Practices. 


We will soon be expanding our culturally responsive practices sections on our webpages.  As a preview we are sharing with you a few of the publications recommended as teachers make their journey toward increased cultural responsiveness: 

Black or African-American

African Centered Pedagogy by Peter C. Murrell

Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching and Learning by Sharroky Hollie


Developing Cross Cultural Competence–A Guide for Working with Young Children and Their Families, by E.W. Lynch and M.J. Hanson.

Hmong Means Free by Sucheng Chan


The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature

Pura Belpre Book Awards (Latina/o Authors/Illustrators)

American Indian/Alaska Native

A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children edited by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin

Thanksgiving: A Native Perspective by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin

Success Story

Jefferson Elementary School, Sheboygan Area School District

She glanced at her MAPS score and looked at her teacher with a quiver in her lips. “Do you understand what that means? Do you know what you did?” her teacher asked. She nodded quietly, and then suddenly a slow smile spread across her face. “Yes,” she whispered, “I’ve gone from a 5th percentile to a 57th percentile. I did that.” Yes she did!

At Jefferson Elementary, we are challenged and gifted with one of the most diverse populations in the state. Sheboygan is home to a Hmong refugee settlement, along with students of Latino and African American heritage giving the school a rich cultural diversity. Being that Jefferson has a considerable English language learner community, we face unique obstacles in lifting up our students that other schools do not have, but Jefferson is proving capable.

In the second year of RtI implementation, most of the district is implementing systems and supports at this stage, while also starting to refine some of their practices. Jefferson Elementary had a vision that they needed to reach further and dig deeper to meet the needs of their students with the urgency that their students deserved. 

So the RtI team made some major decisions for the building. Knowing these changes would be a huge cultural paradigm shift for the staff, they nevertheless plunged ahead. 

Principal Bill Klein, at the helm, decided to:

Invest in staff:

To ensure high quality universal instruction, Klein understood that having RtI leadership support is one thing, but the majority of quality instruction happens in the classroom.  Bill Klein worked feverishly to receive grant funding to provide a very low teacher-to-student ratio along with many additional support staff. 

With ELL and RtI staff, Klein wrote even more grants to provide the school with two RtI coordinators certified as Math and Reading Specialists, four ELL teachers trained in both math and reading intervention. 

Be a comprehensive data-driven school:

It became very apparent that there needed to be a way to manage the large amount of data collected from each student so that trends and patterns could be tracked over the years with very few surprises. With a huge leap of faith, Jefferson took their data and was completely transparent with each other. Everyone knew everyone else’s classroom’s scores.  PBIS personnel started to collaborate with the RtI team to show the staff a positive correlation with PBIS compliance and improved academic growth.  Strengths and areas of improvement were highlighted, teachers reached out, collaborated or celebrated. Staff educated themselves on making decisions based on data trends and interpretation. 

The transition was an intimidating challenge but much needed. The entire staff put their personal comfort aside and put the gains of their students ahead of themselves. It proved to be worth it. Bill Klein stated, “We’ve never seen gains like this before. Since last year our reading achievement has grown 6.1% and our math achievement has grown a whopping 10.79%. We are so proud of our students and our staff.”

Grant Update

With budgets tight, it’s sometimes hard to carry out important initiatives. There have recently been a number of federal grants released that districts can apply for and use towards PBIS, mental health, and culturally responsive practices in PBIS.

The School Climate Transformation Grants have the specific intent of reducing exclusionary discipline in schools through a preventative, positive approach. Grant applications accepted until June 30, 2014.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has announced a grant competition, Project AWARE, for training school personnel in mental health first aid. The grants are for $50,000 per year for two years. Grant applications accepted until June 16, 2014.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has also announced a grant for Developing Knowledge About What Works to Make Schools Safer. NIJ is looking for proposals to be focused on behavioral health, mental health and wellness, safety and preparedness, and climate and culture. Grant applications accepted until July 10, 2014.

DPI/WMC/WCTE/WSRA-Sponsored Core Camp: Deadline Extended! 

The new deadline for sign up is June 2. For more information, click here