Ryan-Toye steers River Forest students toward success

Director of student services conducts research on how students are learning

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

As District 90's director of student services, Martha Ryan-Toye has been focused on implementing the best initiatives that will help students most in the years to come.

At school board meetings this year she has present her research on student learning and updated the board on important changes, such as the new Common Core State Standards that go into effect next year. She's also been behind the district's effort the last few years to put the Response to Intervention learning technique in place.

At the beginning of 2012, research done by Ryan-Toye and other district staff was instrumental in the board's decision not to implement a full-day kindergarten program next fall. The research showed that almost all students coming into D90 kindergarten already have strong core competency skills and make strong gains by first grade. By eighth grade, 94-98 percent of D90's students meet or exceed state standards.

Ryan-Toye was part of the group who, over a year and a half, visited other school districts, interviewed principals and conducted focus groups.

She has worked for several years on the state-mandated Response to Intervention (RtI) educational model that has taken hold in D90. The three-tiered model provides extra support in reading and math for students who might otherwise be headed for a special education program. The idea is to help all students be successful by providing either more support or more challenge. Each tier in the model provides increasingly intense interventions for struggling students.

As the more rigorous Common Core standards draw closer, Ryan-Toye has explained to the board what their implementation means for D90's students. The district is hoping to implement the standards by the start of next school year.

She has said teachers will get into more detail with the new standards but might not cover as much material. The standards emphasize critical reading and writing and the application of knowledge through research and problem-solving.

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