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Kenai teacher's job is to intervene when kids lag

Posted: September 23, 2011 - 12:03am
In this Sept. 16, 2011, photo, Cheryl Romatz, left, uses "touch spell" to help Aiden Lacombe and Erica Love improve their spelling skills at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School in Soldotna, Alaska. As an "interventionist," Romatz helps students improve skills that are tested as a requirement of the Leave No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. (AP Photo/Peninsula Clarion, M. Scott Moon) MAGS OUT, NO SALES  M. SCOTT MOON
M. SCOTT MOON
In this Sept. 16, 2011, photo, Cheryl Romatz, left, uses "touch spell" to help Aiden Lacombe and Erica Love improve their spelling skills at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School in Soldotna, Alaska. As an "interventionist," Romatz helps students improve skills that are tested as a requirement of the Leave No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. (AP Photo/Peninsula Clarion, M. Scott Moon) MAGS OUT, NO SALES

KENAI — Cheryl Romatz has developed a wide range of teaching styles during her 22 year tenure.

Whether she is singing and dancing with first-graders, or working algebra problems with sixth-graders, the goal is the same — to help students get back on track. It’s not just her job, it’s her passion and one students can relate to.

“It’s just so spectacular,” Romatz said. “It’s just absolutely energizing. Every day is phenomenal. I think I have the best job in the district honestly.”

Romatz is the intervention teacher at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary, a school with 400 students and no Title 1 funding unlike other schools throughout the district. Her job is to spend extra time with those students who have difficulty with certain areas of the curriculum as part of the Response to Intervention Program. For example, if a second-grader falls behind and is reading at a first-grade level, Romatz will spend extra time with that student to get him or her up to par.

“When they fall behind,” said Doris Cannon, Director of Elementary Education Curriculum, “they have to spend one hour a day for 180 days to catch up (to) grade level.”

Romatz’s job is to not only give assistance to students, but to schedule time throughout the day to meet with the 38 students she sees on a daily basis.

“That’s 180 hours to get those kids to go up one level,” she said. “What if they are two levels behind? We cannot waste a moment — we’ve got to be doing this. This is a great opportunity.”

Romatz is one of the 17 intervention teachers in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District elementary and middle schools.

The intervention program was designed to help students keep up with the ever-increasing benchmarks set by the Alaska Department of Education. Specifically, those benchmarks are included in Adequate Yearly Progress, a federally mandated program that’s part of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Students are required to show proficiency in language arts (reading and writing) and math at their grade level. To meet AYP, the number of students demonstrating proficiency rises each year, and by 2014, that magic number will be 100 percent. This leaves school districts, teachers and administrators doing their best to keep the students up to that level, which is a very complex task.

“It’s a huge, huge issue,” Cannon said. “There are so many components in making AYP.”

The DOE released results of the 2010-2011 AYP last week, but these results are not to be confused with the results released in August for individual schools. KPBSD as a whole did not meet the requirements for AYP, however, it did meet the requirements for grades three through eight.

The testing occurs in grades three through 10, and if a school has a 12th-grade enrollment, graduation rate is a factor. The standards for AYP increase each year. This year’s graduation standard was 85 percent. KPBSD’s graduation rate as a whole was 72.7 percent.

“It’s good data and assessment,” said KPBSD communications specialist Pegge Erkeneff, “We’ll continue to work especially in our graduation rate, that’s an area we’re spending time and focus.”

Per district policy, high schools have what is known as an intervention team that essentially performs the same duties. But getting the same results is difficult in high school, Cannon said, due to scheduling.

“It’s more of a challenge because their schedule is not as fluid,” she said.

The intervention program is working. In a presentation made to the KPBSD Board of Education, Cannon said for the 2009-2010 school year, 26 percent of third-graders were in the area of needing intervention. After the students received the intervention, that number was down to 8 percent.

Romatz’ training, she said, works like a well-oiled machine. As one group leaves, the next group is in Romatz’s room getting their materials out and ready for instruction.

“It’s like a revolving door,” she said. “They are so respectful of each other.”

She knows the importance of her job, and sees it as more of an honor.

“When you have moms and dads sit at those meetings, and they know their child is struggling,” she said, “and they’re going to put them in my hands for extra help, that’s really an honor.

“That’s not something to take lightly, ever.”

However, having students take a single test, Romatz contends, should not be the determining factor when assessing AYP, or student learning and growth.

“There’s so much more to it,” she said. “You’re talking about a test taken on one day. That child is so much more than that one thing.

“And our schools are so much more than that one test. That being said, we need the majority of the students to make that (AYP).”

With all the complexity, Romatz said, intervention is helping the issue.

“It’s a big picture, but we still have to do it,” she said. “And we all know it, so we’re all working to make it happen.

“Intervention is the cat’s meow, it’s a good deal.”

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