Long Beach’s Pivotal Turn Around RTI

In the Long Beach, Calif., Unified School District, this tiered approach to intervention was pivotal to transforming student achievement across the district.

Long Beach Unified School District is the state’s third largest urban school district with more than 90,000 students, 84 percent of whom are minority and 68 percent of whom qualify for free and reduced price lunch, and where over 46 languages are spoken. RTI has proven a successful model to increase the achievement of all students.

In 2003, the Long Beach Unified School District won the highly prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education and was a finalist again in 2007.

The use of the tiered approach to intervention was intentionally started with high school students whose outcome data showed to be failing at a high rate. Some lacked basic skills needed for higher-level learning.

Starting with a universal screen though which all 8th graders are assessed for skills on various measures, the district tiers students into the appropriate levels of instruction they need. The movement among all three tiers is fluid. Students are assessed and their progress monitored, allowing them to move among tiers where their instructional and behavioral needs are best met.

This approach was so successful in the high schools that it soon was implemented with all 5th graders moving into middle school. For students in grades other than 5th and 8th, each grade level uses a tiered approach to intervention in helping teachers make data-based decisions to drive instruction. As a result, Long Beach has been able to maintain high levels of student achievement for all learners, including special education students. And the school system has moved closer to erasing the achievement gap that exists among groups of students where this gap traditionally exists.

—Judy Elliott