I-TEAM: Richmond Co. students are stuck on a tier, former intervention teacher says

Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 6:45 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Homelessness, behavior, and poor academic performance are a few things that can put a student at risk of falling behind in school and even dropping out.

Early intervention is the key to keeping kids in school, and the Richmond County School System does that through a multi-tier level of support and services.

A former RCSS intervention teacher tells our I-TEAM that some students do not receive the resources they need to make progress.

The goal is to get kids help early on so they can succeed in school, but some kids need more than need more intervention; they need special education services.

It takes a big heart to shape little minds.

“I know I make a difference. I know I do,” said Yevtevia Williams.

She says her calling led her to the classroom seven years ago.

“My true calling. I can say my true calling,” she said.

She believes speaking out cost her a transfer and ultimately her job.

“I am talking to you because I want to shed light on unethical practices done in the Richmond County School System,” said Williams.

The certified teacher worked as a Tier 3 intervention instructor at Glenn Hills Elementary until January 2022.

“A Tier 3 intervention instructor provides intervention for students who are at the Tier 3 stage in the RTI process. These are children who are consistently performing academically lower than expected, at least two grade levels behind,” she said.

Her job was to bring reading levels up and provide documentation for students still struggling and needing additional support.

“You have fourth graders who are nonreaders,” said Williams. “My job is to provide them the documentation to get them sped services.”

Georgia Department of Education created a video to explain the multi-tiered system of support.

“As students learn they receive core instruction and sometimes interventions. Those interventions create a personalized path. The system of tracking that path is called progress monitoring.”

The I-TEAM filed an open records request and found there were about 500 students in Tier 3 of that process last school year.

Williams says some students stay stuck there.

“I would tell the principal, ‘I think this kid needs to be pushed on to sped’,” she said.

Williams says she documented several students in need of special education.

“These children, mind you, have been in the RTI process for more than two years,” she said.

Two years of data to track no meaningful improvement and a need for additional help.

Lynthia Ross is the spokesperson for the district.

Liz: “Are there kids stuck in Tier 3 who need special education? They have the data showing they need special education but they are in Tier 3 for a year or two?”

“No, I am not aware of any students who are stuck or have been stuck in a process. We always evaluate our process and look to do what is going to be in the best interest of our students to make sure they are successful, but our children are not stuck,” said Ross.

Liz: “What kind of services are you talking about?”

Williams: They should be getting small group help from special education teachers who specialize in kids who are nonreaders.”

The district was unable to tell us how many students remained in Tier 3 last school year.

Liz: “Did you say anything about it?”

Williams: “Oh yes, I did.”

An email obtained by the I-TEAM shows her superiors reprimanded her early this year for insubordination.

The teacher protested by responding in this email:

“I declined to test Tier 3 students. I declined because ethically and legally speaking in order for students to test in a small group setting is if they have a 504 plan or an IEP with testing accommodations listed on it.”

A choice. In other words, she says she was asked to administer special testing to students not yet approved for accommodations.

The district transferred her shortly after reprimanding her.

Liz: “Are children suffering because of this?”

“Yes they are,” said Williams.

The I-TEAM checked her personal file, and despite years of glowing evaluations.

Williams: “I have been sent a non-renewal letter by the district.”

The school district did not welcome the certified teacher back to the classroom after she spoke up for her students.

“When I say this is my call? This is my call. I know my purpose,” she said.

A purpose she is now filling at a neighboring school district with much better pay.

A big part of the process does involve parents, which is why it is crucial for your child’s educational well-being to attend and even request meetings.

Williams did request a hearing after receiving the non-renewal letter but decided not to fight it after finding another teaching job.