GT RTI for Underachievement

Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman  With a student who has high potential, a gifted student, the difficulty comes in trying to understand why they are not making progress. If they should be able to successfully complete the work and yet they are not doing so, then we need to figure out what is behind the “underachievement” that we are seeing. First we should determine if the pattern is chronic (long term and in several areas) or just acute (short term in a limited area and one subject or task). Talking with the student is a good way to begin to understand what is going on.

Sometimes gifted students chose not to show progress because they feel like the “extra” work is not something they want to do. If this is the case, developing learning contracts with the student focused on work that takes the students interests into account may be helpful….

“Up from Underachievement” by Diane Heacox (Free Spirit Publishing). Gifted learners are rarely “globally gifted” however, and so the answer is also that sometimes services will need to change based on needs.  [Marti: I have copies you can borrow if you live in TFSD]

From a parent’s perspective (and sometimes from the child’s), this can seem like we are “de-gifted” the child. [MartiThis is exactly what happened last year with the math group. It took a lot of classroom and intervention teacher talk to debunk it.]  We are not used to services being matched to needs with flexibility and it has always been “in” or “out” and so this is a new process.

The most important thing is that you have the “data” that shows what the student needs and that you are matching this with an appropriate service.  [Marti: Next time parent notes will be filled with data.] …Share the criteria and process that are being used to determine what the students needs are and to match these with appropriate services. Be very explicit with what the differentiation is and how it is addressing the needs. Then make sure that the differentiation is in fact taking place.

Myths about Gifted Students from NAGC

That Student Can’t Be Gifted, He Is Receiving Poor Grades

Underachievement describes a discrepancy between a student’s performance and his actual ability.  The roots of this problem differ, based on each child’s experiences.  Gifted students may become bored or frustrated in an unchallenging classroom situation causing them to lose interest, learn bad study habits, or distrust the school environment Other students may mask their abilities to try to fit in socially with their same-age peers and still others may have a learning disability that masks their giftedness.  No matter the cause, it is imperative that a caring and perceptive adult help gifted learners break the cycle of underachievement in order to achieve their full potential. [Bolding and italicizing were added by Marti.]


Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman

The questions to ask about Tier 1 include:

  • What will be done in Tier 1 (Universal) to recognize and nurture potential?
  • What kinds of differentiation can we expect to address high end learning needs?
  • What universal screening for high potential will be in place?
  • How will teachers be supported in their role of nurturing, recognizing and responding to potential?

…These five differentiation strategies are as follows:
1. Curriculum Compacting (pre-assessment of learners to see what they know)
2. The use of Tiered Assignments that address: Mastery, Enrichment, and Challenge
3. Tiered Learning Centers that allow children to further explore skills and concepts
4. Independent and Small group learning contracts that allow students to follow area of interest
5. Questioning for Higher Level Thinking to stretch the minds of each child.

Marti Pike TFSD GT Coordinator

We can Intervene for GT students not yet identified or unable to join the GT Magnet Classrooms. I am constantly looking for way to help regular ed. bright students. For one intervention I  will provide opportunities for classroom teachers to give extensions through Google Classroom (Tier I). When students respond well to the interventions, we might consider 1) providing more intense extensions in small pull-out groups (Tier II) and/or 2) testing them to see if they might need to join the GT Magnet Classrooms (Tier III) depending on time of year and size of class.

GT RTI Tiers II III and IV

Dr. Ruth Coleman

The questions to ask about Tier 2 include:

  • What additional enhancements, enrichments, and challenges can we provide for students who demonstrate a need to go beyond the general curriculum?
    • Marti: Students can choose what they want to learn/make and journal the progress.  These journals can be graded with a GRIT Rubric.  There will be a presentation (also graded with GRIT) in the end but the finished product will not be graded.
    • Marti: We will also provide self-paced online reading and math programs to help them with benchmark improvement.
    • *Marti: Deep Reading/Thinking and Thoughtful Writing…Making connections and researching topics so they can show thinking by write more thoughtfully.
  • How will we use progress monitoring and other assessment data to make decisions about student learning needs?
    • Marti: We can continue to watch benchmarks and learning attitudes.
    • *Marti: Grading writing with the Google Doc add-on WriQ will let parents and students see progress.
  • What kinds of collaboration will need to be in place?
    • Marti: We can collaborate with the teacher, principal, and parents digitally, by phone, or in person so all know the goals and successes of each student.
    • *Marti: Google Classroom assignments and summaries are offered.
  • How will we involve parents in the decision making process as we explore possible nomination for formal identification?
    • Marti: They can be kept informed of rubrics, benchmarks, and learning attitudes as shown in the Renzulli’s Scales and other measures.
    • *Marti:  Parents will be asked to fill out a survey.

The questions to ask about Tier 3 include:

  • What support services will be offered for students at the most intensive levels of need?
    • Marti: Students can participate in the 4th and 5th grades GT Magnet Classrooms
  • Is this going to include learning opportunities provided in a resource pull-out format? If not, what will take the place of this?
    • Marti: Full day learning with intellectual peers including the “Specials” classes (Music, Art, Library, PE, and Computers).
  • How will decisions be made regarding formal identification?
    • Marti: See identification outlined in the TFSD 3 Year Plan.

Marti Pike TFSD GT Coordinator

We can Intervene for GT students identified as GT but unwilling or unable to join the Magnet Classrooms.  We are watching the AIMSweb benchmark scores and trends to determine need.  We are constantly looking for ways to help regular ed. bright students. Sometimes we pull together small groups (Tier II) either physically or online. Students can be enriched and accelerated in core subjects.  This year we are also working on extending “Genius Hour” opportunities at differing intensities.

When students respond well to the interventions, we might consider testing them and helping them join the GT Magnet Classrooms in grades 4 and 5 (Tier III) depending on time of year and size of class.  We have created a proposal for grade 3 that has not yet been accepted.

Marti Pike TFSD GT Coordinator

The questions to ask about Tier 4 include:

Why do we need tier 4?

Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman

…the basic concept of RTI for students who are gifted is the same as for other students: to plan appropriate instruction, based on data that show the learners’ needs. The needs for many students who are gifted will often include additional enrichment and challenge in their area(s) strength. Depending on the intensity of these needs, services are either provided in Tiers 2 or 3 (or whichever number of tiers is being used).

Marti Pike TFSD GT Coordinator

I would like to propose a Tier 4 for students that are in the GT Magnet Classrooms but needing even more intense training than is offered to the whole class.  Again, the need is shown by how they respond to challenges.

Last year a few fourth graders that responded very well to learning to code and some pre-app development assignments.  Three of them were pulled into the room next door learn how to develop apps and to practice.  They were ready for the added intensity.  The rest were not because they opted out of doing the easier assignments.

This year I would like to add a Tier 4 for Spanish and a Tier 4 for Class Hacker (their choice projects) as students show a desire and a need.  I will get better at celebrating these successes with them.
Genius Hour Intro:
“Structuring Your Program” (I am working on a GT RTI translation.)
Benchmark Assessments: 4 Best Practices
GT 3 Year Plan for TFSD, Revised 2017:
TFSD GT Philosophy: