Collaborating to Reach Every Learner

“We are entering an exciting time in education. With the widespread adoption of the more rigorous Common Core State Standards, the continued emphasis on access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities, and increasing diversity in schools, we are at a critical juncture—one that demands that general education teachers and intervention specialists work together.”

I love this statement and why it was written. Dr. Moira Konrad, Associate Professor of Special Education at The Ohio State University penned it as the opening statement to introduce a special issue of Intervention in School and Clinic, a national peer-reviewed journal that is featuring a series of five articles about formative instructional practices. I had the recent pleasure of co-authoring these articles with Dr. Konrad, several of her colleagues, and Virginia Ressa from the Ohio Department of Education. Collectively, we make the case that new standards present the right opportunity to move toward improved practices characterized by formative instructional practices (FIP). Specifically, FIP supports better alignment between assessments and instruction, more effective progress monitoring, consistent use of data to make instructional decisions, and an emphasis on helping students know where they are in their learning in relationship to where they need to be.

Having these articles published is—well, I can’t lie — thrilling! But, equally exciting was the opportunity to collaborate with various special education experts who clearly see how FIP can serve as a very important bridge between general and special educators. At this time higher expectations, new assessments, and intensified accountability measures are challenging us to make significant changes to what is taught and how we determine success. It is very apparent that special educators will need now, more than ever, the content expertise of general educators, and general educators will need the intervention expertise of special educators. FIP provides educators in each of these fields with a common vocabulary, orientation to teaching and learning, and strategies that support student learning of the standards.

Before I share some takeaways, I want to point out that the articles represent only one of many collaborations that have produced FIP tools and examples for teachers who work with diverse learners. A new series of three FIP modules entitled “Reaching Every Student” has been developed. These modules feature strategies designed to help all educators better apply FIP to their work with English language learners, gifted students and students with disabilities. Visit to explore and enroll in each of these new modules.

Now, here are some practice-oriented and evidence-based ideas that are addressed in the articles:

  • Intervention specialists have long used FIP. They haven’t given the practices the same name, but special educators routinely set measurable learning goals, continuously monitor students’ progress toward mastery of those goals, and adjust instruction based on progress monitoring data. Intervention specialists are well-positioned to support schools with the adoption of more rigorous standards.
  • The importance of creating and sharing clear targets for all students cannot be underestimated. Intervention specialists help to make targets better understood by students. They are also able to balance the general curriculum and individualized needs of students when they work within a team to develop standards- and IEP-based learning targets.
  •  Intervention specialists can work with general educators to use and have students participate in several methods of collecting data. These methods can include direct observation, teacher-made tests, curriculum-based measurement, rubrics, and goal attainment scaling. Regardless of the method, collecting accurate evidence is key.
  • The purpose of formative instructional practices is to help move students’ learning forward, and that learning cannot advance without feedback. Thus, effective teaching does not occur in the absence of effective feedback. There are several evidence-based teaching strategies you can use to embed frequent feedback opportunities and make delivery of feedback powerful in classrooms.
  • Merely involving students in the learning process is not sufficient; to maximize outcomes, students must take ownership of their learning. Educators can use evidence-based approaches to cultivate student ownership of learning that pushes student ownership for all learners beyond our current notions of student engagement.

The articles and each of the Reaching Every Student modules are available now. They could be used as part of a blended learning experience to support collaborations across special and general educators in your building. So inspire general and special educators to work together to prepare each other in the advent of new standards to help every learner grow. And consider how to use these tools to address educator professional growth goals.

Let me know how the FIP Team can help. For more examples of FIP in Action where intervention specialists are working alongside classroom teachers to meet the needs of all learners, check out:

FIP in Action: Math Grade 3 Advancing FIP through PLTS, which features an intervention specialist working with a team of Grade 3 math teachers.

Coming Soon: FIP in Action: Science 8 which features an intervention specialist working with a team of Grade 8 science teachers.


FIP Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day from a teacher at a recent FIP professional learning day:

"I used to think that I had to summatively evaluate after each chapter and formally teach each standard, even if the students had already learned it. But now I think I can use formative evaluations and possibly 'skip' the summative evaluation. If my students are already proficient, I can move on to the next standard to continue to challenge students."

Moving Past Being Uncomfortable: The Evidence Game

This blog post was written by Bob Cline. Bob teaches at Shanahan Middle School, in the Olentangy school district. Bob is also featured in the FIP Video Library.



I have been teaching for the past nine years, trying to maximize the learning of every student in my class. This is the vision of any good teacher as they start each year. I have attended numerous conferences and professional development sessions, and tried other approaches in engagement, rigor, and curriculum alignment; the list goes on. Regarding FIP, I have found that the Evidence game I use to collect and document evidence gives me and my students the biggest bang for our time and effort.  This activity blends many best practices into a process that drives my teaching and supports my students.

The Evidence Game holds students accountable for their learning using a clear and fair approach. However, holding students accountable requires a balance of high expectations and pushing them even when they are feeling uncomfortable.  I would argue it is not only students who often can feel uncomfortable, but also the teacher, as we attempt to determine when and how to support students, and how to create a sense of accountability for the learning. I want my students to know their role in the learning process, which is a role just as important and as active as mine.

Here is a description of how I hold students accountable and why I don’t run away in the moments that make my students and uncomfortable.

Learning targets/standards must be clearly visible for students.  Early in my teaching career, I thought students knew what the expectation was because it was modeled in class or discussed. However, I came to realize that students need a visible reminder of the learning expectations daily. I began the “Evidence Game” with new learning targets for a given unit in the form of questions. The expectations become clear and visible.  At the end of the class, I remind students that if they need help on these expectations they must approach me. If they walk out of my classroom, there is a common agreement between us they should be held accountable to that target.

As we move through a given unit, more targets are displayed. After being discussed in class, these targets move to the ongoing targets category (a section on my wall). After a few days, we physically move to the part in my room where all the targets are displayed. I often start by saying, “You have 5 minutes to review all the targets and ask a friend for help or clarification.”  I help a student or two, but I keep a close watch all the students as they engage with each other.  I point to the ongoing targets discussed in class. Students are asked not to raise their hand. I begin to call on them, one at a time. Participation is not optional in my class.  It is my responsibility as a teacher to determine what each student knows, not just the student who always raises his/her hand. My students know that I will call on anyone, unless they have approached me within the last day or two on a given target to indicate they still need more time and support. This allows the students a safety net and the opportunity to be accountable for, and active in, their learning.

You might ask, what happens when a student does not know the proper answer/response during this process.  Here’s how it works. I call on a student. They may stare at me and hesitate to answer, maybe feeling unsure or uncomfortable. However, I do not move on until that student can give me a response, whether it is accurate or inaccurate.  This gives me a next direction to take. If a student is close, I support and guide them through the question posted. However, if it is clear that the student does not know the question at all and has not approached me earlier, I let them know very clearly that it is unacceptable and they need to be more accountable for their learning.  Only then will I move on to another student until I get an accurate response about the given target. Next, I immediately return to the student who was unprepared, to see if they can now successfully answer the question.

Why do I do this? I believe too many teachers move past students when they don’t know something in a larger class setting or discussion. This may be because many teachers feel uncomfortable about how to support students, and choosing the right moment to do so. I, however, have told my students that the role I have as their teacher and the point of this activity is to support them in their learning. When a student gets something wrong, I return to that student immediately because I do not want to send the wrong message.  No student gets something wrong and leaves my classroom without any support or follow up; l want them to learn that waiting is not acceptable. I want to help students in what I call the “moments that present themselves,” even when they might feel uncomfortable.

The Evidence Game activity has been a game-changer in my classroom for the past six years.  For this to work, there must be clear, structured, visible expectations, and a relationship with students based on trust and shared accountability. I have found this approach holds students accountable; they know what they don’t know, and they seek out help way before any graded assessment takes place. I do this Evidence Game activity several times within a given unit, which allows for a short cycle review of content. It gives students a more cohesive understanding of the connection between standards/targets. I also collect additional evidence of learning with other individual data tracking of student progress. In the end, the Evidence Game has allowed me to be a better teacher as I continue to strive to maximize learning for every student. 

More Than an Acronym

This blog post was written by Kristy Draher. Kristy is a Grade 8 ELA and Reading Teacher at London Middle School. 

Teaching is a profession of acronyms. I learned this early on in my college career. I had stacks of flashcards full of acronyms and their respective definitions. I could tell you what an IEP is, what IDEA stands for, and what the common symptoms of ADHD or ODD are. Even as recently as four years ago, however, I couldn't tell you what FIP stood for. While FIP (formative instructional practices) may be a newer acronym in the world of education, the culture behind a FIP school isn't. I use FIP in the classroom easily and effectively and the FIP practices have become part of my students’ and my daily routine.

When the students walk into my 8th grade classroom they know that they have to work to their fullest potential. They know where to locate the learning targets – they hear me use them in conversation, and they are able to explain the goal of the lesson. My students are actively engaged in their own learning, and are comfortable in assessing themselves. Using a quick and informal self-assessment process allows me to get an idea of where every student is, and who might need some reinforcement before moving on. This encompasses four of the FIP practices: students are engaged, students take ownership of their own learning, learning targets are clear, and feedback is effective.

I am passionate about teaching and even more passionate about guiding my eighth-graders to become well-rounded critical thinkers. The use of FIP in my classroom and in my building has created a culture that is student-driven. We have embraced the FIP philosophy, and it can be seen throughout all grade levels and subject areas.

Learn more about FIP here.

Universal Design for Living and Learning

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph. D.

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph. D.

It feels unimaginable. It's a typical summer day and you're riding your bicycle along a nearby bike trail. Then, suddenly a 3 1/2 ton tree that once stood 80 feet tall, falls and crushes you, paralyzing you from the waist down. You return to your home in a wheelchair after six weeks only to realize you cannot get into your own house due to steps at every door. Then, once that obstacle is addressed, you discover that you can’t access the bathroom because the doorways are too narrow; your use of the kitchen is extremely limited because you can’t reach the cabinets or have access to the oven.

When this happened to Dr. Rosemarie Rossetti in 1998, she realized that her own home had intensified her disability. Moreover, since her business was in the basement, even her livelihood was being compromised.

But Rosemarie is an accomplished Central Ohio woman with a history of ingenuity and determination. Once she stumbled upon the concept of Universal Design, she set her sights on building a new home—her dream home—one that not only met her own needs, now that she was effectively 4-foot tall while seated in her wheelchair, but equally those of her husband, Mark Leder, who stands over 6- foot tall.

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

Building her new home began as a necessity and evolved into a mission. Now, 16 years later, Rosemarie’s dream house is nearly completed, and, through a community effort, is a model for best practice in universal design (UD). In fact, it is the highest rated UD house in North America!

What is universal design? Simply put, UD is designing from the inside out; constructing and crafting environments that serve the needs of all of its dwellers. It is less about retrofitting spaces for accessibility by adding features or modifying structures; it is more about well-designed spaces that require fewer individualized modifications. Everyone benefits.

Rosemarie and her husband collaborated with several builders and interior designers to meticulously create what is now a life, work, and education space. They recruited support along the way from a myriad of sponsors and volunteers, and will soon be opening their home to the public. Here, architects and designers can learn more about the features of this Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home (it is also a green home), and how the concepts can be integrated into their own design thinking.

What about your own design thinking? Do you think about instructional design and learning spaces in the same ways that Rosemarie thinks about home design? Universal Design for Learning (UDL) borrows the concepts that Ronald Mace put forward in 1988 concerning architecture, and applies it to teaching and learning. Universal Design for Learning is an orientation to student learning that focuses on all students and how we create adaptive environments that are good for all of them. UDL focuses on the ways we assure that learners can adequately receive information, express their understandings, and meaningfully engage with peers. UDL is entirely consonant with FIP. After all, formative instructional practices (FIP) are about how teachers create ways to increase student ownership by focusing on helping students to know where they are in their learning, where they are going, and how they can get there. FIP teachers constantly examine if their efforts result in students becoming clear, confident and self-reliant on their path to mastery.

The Reaching Every Student module series focuses on UDL principles. The three modules extend the foundational module learning by asking educators to carefully consider the components of FIP and to make sure that their decisions increase each student’s ownership and mastery of their learning. 

Specifically, the new Formative Instructional Practices: Reaching Students with Disabilities module deepens teachers’ understanding of how to best use FIP to meet the needs of students with a range of special needs by using FIP to maximize their achievement and growth.

This module is intended for classroom teachers that are interested in improving instruction for all of their students, including students with disabilities. It is also for intervention specialists who may be beginning their FIP journey. It is meant to be used as a companion to the Foundations of FIP and FIP in Action Modules.

Below is an example of what we mean by UDL and FIP thinking.  You will see that there is NO RETRO-FIT IN FIP! To find many more ideas to meet the needs of all your learners, enroll in this module. The module provides strategies and most importantly, ways of thinking about options intended to augment FIP effectiveness.

The story of Rosemarie Rosetti’s demonstration home is inspirational as well as educational. I encourage you to visit for more information, pictures and a virtual tour. Volunteers are needed to guide tours. So, if you have time, or if you know of students needing service credit, contact Rosemarie at

For more about Universal Design for Learning, you can also visit this Ohio resource:


FIP Quote of the Day

“Teaching my students to engage in peer feedback has worked; they have developed in terms of identifying areas of success and intervention for one another. Eric, one of my gifted students who is actually younger than his peers, has benefited from the social interactions. Though he tends to be a perfectionist, I have seen him become more accepting of errors. He is more interested now in figuring out how to improve. I used to spend a lot of time providing written and oral feedback to students. Teaching my students to use effective peer feedback saves me time, because my students take more ownership of their learning and provide each other with high-quality feedback.”

- Mr. Perez: Formative Instructional Practices: Reaching Gifted Students Module


As a part of the Reaching Every Student series, Formative Instructional Practices: Reaching Gifted Students deepens teachers' understanding of how to use formative instructional practices to meet the needs of gifted students and maximize their achievement and growth.This module is available for all Ohio educators here