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Improvement Teacher and Interventionist Testimonials

Posted Date: 03/03/2023

Improvement teachers and interventionists play a pivotal role in the progression of our students through the Scientifically Research-Based Interventions (SRBI) Program. Their continued work with students in the district is supremely beneficial and helps them be better prepared for their next step in schooling and be better equipped when graduating and moving on to college or their careers.

Not only do we appreciate their unique and invaluable work, but many around the district are acknowledging the fine work of our improvement teachers and interventionists too!

RINA BRITELL – Improvement Teacher & Parent

My name is Rina Britell and I am currently the reading improvement teacher at Cranbury Elementary School.  I am also a lifelong resident of Norwalk and have three children currently in Norwalk Public Schools in grades 3, 6 and 8. This is my 19th year as an educator and my 14th year as a literacy specialist. My first 10 years as a literacy specialist were spent in Ridgefield. I was always puzzled as to why Norwalk did not have certified reading or math interventionists and wondered who was servicing our most at risk children? How would gaps in reading and math be closed without the support of highly trained specialists? As my own children neared being school-aged my concerns grew. Finally, in 2019, I saw many postings for literacy and math specialists. I knew this was my opportunity to bring what I have learned in Ridgefield and serve my own community.  

When I began, I was shocked and troubled by the amount of Special Education referrals that existed and noticed that students who did not necessarily have a learning disability were qualifying simply because of gaps in understanding curriculum content.  

Along with improvement teachers came a systemic approach to SRBI. SRBI is designed to give different tiers of support to children with educational gaps and in turn has lowered Special Education referrals.  For example, this time last year, Cranbury had approximately 15 Special Education referrals. This year, we have only had four. Improvement teachers closely monitor students who are in the SRBI process and help teachers make decisions on next steps to ensure they are making adequate progress. You can imagine how much pressure this has taken off of our Special Education staff who now have more time to service children instead of being burdened with testing.  This is directly related to the work of improvement teachers filling educational gaps and instructional coaches helping to improve tier one instruction.  

We all know the impact COVID had on so many of our children, including my own son. Because of the reading improvement teacher at his school he is no longer struggling with reading and is able to access grade level content. That is our job, to close gaps so that our students can no longer struggle. Another example is one of my own students who was homeschooled during the pandemic.  She came to third grade in May 2022 barely knowing her letters and sounds. Did she have a reading disability? No, she did not. Because she went through the SRBI system, she is now reading at grade level and her confidence has skyrocketed. This is just one success story.  Who will do this work if our positions are taken away? Non-certified staff who have not had adequate training on the science of reading? If we don’t invest in our schools and children’s education, we will fail them and this is directly related to the proposed budget decrease.

Our children deserve better!

KRISTIN MALONEY – Math Improvement Teacher (Jefferson)

As a Math Improvement Teacher, I am regularly looking at and analyzing the data from NWEA testing. Here you can see recent data that I am very proud of at Jefferson: the growth our students are making in Math, seen by comparing how our neediest students scored on the Middle of the Year math test from 2022 to most recently in 2023. The NWEA test is a standardized test that assesses students in many areas of mathematics, and not just on their grade level. At Jefferson, we have over 50% of our students who qualify for Tier 2 support in Math because they have scored at or below the 40%. But since providing Tier 2 supports through scientifically research-based interventions, we have seen 15% of our neediest students advance out of formal Tier 2 (which is made up of those students who scored at the 20% or below), as well as seen 15% of our students exit out of Tier 2 all together. Students at Jefferson have moved from a space where they expressed a lot of “math anxiety” to becoming students who tell me regularly how much they love math! 

MEGHAN KARTSTEIN – Math Improvement Teacher (Cranbury)

These decreases are due in large part to our improvement teachers and the SRBI (Scientific Research-Based Intervention) methodology we use to give students differentiated instruction, based on their individual gaps in learning. SRBI is vital to the Special Education referral process. Students must go through at least 2 rounds of SRBI before even being considered for a referral. Improvement teachers closely monitor students going through those rounds and help teachers make decisions on next steps to ensure the students make adequate progress. The different tiers of SRBI support have actually lowered Special Education referrals. For example, at this time last year, Cranbury had approximately 15 Special Education referrals. As of right now, we've only had 4. 

You can imagine how much pressure this has taken off of our Special Education staff. They now have more time to service children in need, rather than being burdened with testing or even with taking in children who don't necessarily need Special Education – they just need some focused improvement time and instruction. 

SARAH ANASTASIA – Classroom Teacher

As a classroom teacher, I use consistent data collection to identify struggling students and provide additional academic instruction to remediate skill deficits and to help all students find success.  When students continue to struggle, I work closely with an interventionist to analyze data, make a plan for more intensive intervention using a specialized program, and closely monitor progress.  Interventionists and improvement teachers are trained in research-based programs that provide students with supplemental small-group instruction to close learning gaps and lower referrals to special education.  They play a key role in helping our most struggling students by providing additional high-quality support in small group settings.  

TAMMY MALKIN – Classroom Teacher

The reading and math interventionists at RES have been instrumental in the growth of some of my third-grade students. For example, I have a math student whose NWEA map score increased by 9 points from Fall to Winter. The weekly interventions provided by the math interventionist have contributed to his confidence in mathematics and his ability to persevere when faced with an academic problem-solving task.  As the parent of a first grader who sees the math interventionist for enrichment, I am happy to say that I feel grateful for the time my son spends with the math interventionist. Without that dedicated time, he would be bored.

I have been a teacher for over 20 years. When I first began, we had reading teachers who identified students in need of reading instruction through the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Benchmark Testing. Those students received daily small group instruction using the Reading Recovery program. Although recent science has debunked the program itself in favor of science-based reading strategies, the time allotted to those students in need was invaluable. It is impossible to expect a classroom teacher to meet with all of the identified students in her room on a daily basis in a small group setting. Elementary school teachers teach multiple subjects and are expected to be nurses, social workers, house cleaners and tech engineers. Therefore, the reading and math interventionists are essential to meeting our kids' academic needs as pinpointed by targeting pre and post assessments. These teachers use science-based programs and tricks of the trade to help our students grow.

Finally, I just want to implore the board to reconsider how other resources are distributed. The coaches at my school are great at their given job. The data meetings are organized and well run. However, they are minimally useful. To be effective, the coaches should be in the classroom "coaching.” By that I mean teaching alongside teachers and providing teachers with scaffolds and resources so we do not have to go home and spend hours doing this on our own. 

Lastly, the multitude of administrative positions in Central Office is a waste of resrources. If Norwalk is serious about growing our students and changing test scores, they need to put highly competent paras in every K-2 classroom in the district. Another option is create a co-taught classroom in every school grades K-2.

Allow the paraprofessionals to learn his or her co-teacher, the state standards and resources for 2 to 5 years and then we will see less kids in need of interventions – and less teacher turn around. Studies show if a student is disfluent by third grade, they will remain so for many years to come. 

Put the money in K-2and let it grow, and we will see our students flourish. 

EILEEN STRYCHARZ – Reading & Writing Improvement Teacher

During the 2022-23 school year, I moved into the role of reading and writing improvement teacher after completing 17 years as a classroom teacher in Norwalk. The scientifically-based programs that I provided my students this year have consistently shown that the achievement gap between where the student is currently performing academically in comparison to the district expectations is shrinking. My students self-esteem and willingness to take chances in their learning has improved because their skill sets of both encoding and decoding words has increased. Students deserve to have a space where they have someone meet them where they are and push off from there. The students of Norwalk deserve individualized small groups that are data-driven and paced in a way that will fill in the learning gaps that have been created. The classroom teacher plays an integral role in this process, but their job is to teach to grade-level standards. Our role is to match scientifically-based programs to backfill misunderstandings in the students’ learning or concepts that weren’t mastered when originally taught. I can’t help but wonder what example we are giving the students of Norwalk if these intervention groups are not continued. These roles matter because the students that are directly affected by them matter, not only academically but emotionally as well.

Check out our video on why improvement teachers are so vital below!


For more information on the budget and how it impacts improvement teachers and the SRBI Program, visit