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Holly Academy has been educating children in grades K-8 in Genesee and Oakland Counties since 1999. The school’s mission is to “achieve individual academic success for all students through a positive family, school, and community partnership.” Holly Academy supports the mindset that the school “family” should celebrate all students and their unique, individual achievements. Holly Academy produces strong academic results through a comprehensive academic curriculum that is integrated into a supportive school that encourages high levels of family and community involvement.
Holly Academy has been awarded federal dissemination grant funds over a two-year period to conduct research and evaluation of the Response to Intervention (RtI) pyramid model. Through collaboration in PLCs, RtI translates legal mandates of NCLB into a clear picture of how to create three tiered pyramid interventions to close gaps in student learning and resolve behavioral problems.


Through this grant we aim to evaluate the ability of the RtI model to produce sustained academic gains for lower performing students from a variety of backgrounds. Holly Academy’s working research hypothesis is:  When instituted in conjunction with PLCs, the RtI model will produce long-term academic gains for students performing 6 months or more below grade level regardless of the socio-economic or ethnic background of the student. In line with this broad hypothesis, Holly Academy has five sets of questions that will be evaluated through the research program design:

  1. How effective is the RtI model as instituted at Holly Academy? Do students subjected to RtI intervention strategies retain the gains they have made once they are no longer receiving the intensive intervention instruction of Tier II or Tier III?
  2. What is the average length of time that students remain in Tier II of the program? What is the average length of time students remain in Tier III of the program? How long will it take students to achieve accelerated progress?  At what point should students be transitioned out of the Intervention tiers?
  3. Which specific intervention activities and teaching strategies are most effective at producing long-term learner success?
  4. Which baseline measures are most effective at identifying students who will benefit from the Tier II and Tier III interventions?
  5. Is the RtI model more effective with some learner groups than with others? E.g., does this model work better with students from more affluent backgrounds than with students coming from less affluent homes?

Question Sets 1-4 will be evaluated during years 1 and 2 of the grant’s implementation. These questions constitute the heart of our evaluation project as they will allow our staff to hone our RtI program. Specific intervention strategies and teaching strategies that prove most effective during year 1 will be more widely implemented in year 2 at both Holly Academy and at a partner school. Likewise, any insights we gain concerning optimal time spent performing at an accelerated pace in Tier II or Tier III will be used to strengthen our instructional processes during year 2. Because we will be using two different standardized assessments to place students in Tiers II and III, we will compare the reliability of these assessments in predicting student success responses to the higher tier interventions. In assessing the reliability of these assessments the goal will be to identify a single assessment that can be used to accurately place students. Additionally, we will identify specific evaluation items on both the baseline and post-treatment assessments that correlate with specific school goals so that we can determine the efficacy of the RtI program in helping our school to achieve its key objectives.

Question Set 5 will be evaluated during year 2 of the grant’s implementation. Holly Academy serves a population that is relatively affluent and racially homogenous. We will partner with one other school in order test to assess any difference in results produced by the RtI model when dealing with students from different socio-economic backgrounds. We will seek a partner school that is racially diverse, has a high percentage of free and reduced-price lunch students, and has the organizational capacity to implement and/or sustain PLCs. Because this partner school will be implementing the RtI program anew in the 2nd year of the grant, our research findings concerning the efficacy of the program will be preliminary and will be compared to the results from Holly Academy with statistical caution since Holly Academy will have had greater experience with program implementation.


Michigan Department of Education