MN UCEDD Collaborates with Educators in India to Improve Elementary Education

October 31, 2014

This month four faculty and students from Avinashilingam University for Women in Coimbatore, India, are at the Institute on Community Integration (MN UCEDD) working with ICI staff on strategies for helping students of all abilities and backgrounds in India reach a level of education that will make them competitive in the job market and everyday life.

Since 2013, ICI's Brian Abery and Ren'ta Tich' have been working with Avinashilingam University, the Coimbatore school district in Tamil Nadu, India, and school districts in Minnesota on a project titled, "A Sustainabl 'Response to Intervention' Model for Successful Inclusion of Students with Disabilities: An India-U.S. Partnership." It is focusing on adapting the Response to Intervention educational model developed in the U.S. to the needs of elementary students with and without disabilities from underprivileged backgrounds and low-achieving schools in India.

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a school-wide process that can help teachers ensure that all their students are making adequate academic progress. This project is focused on identifying and solving the unique challenges of adapting and implementing RTI in another country, culture, and education system. The project recently completed reading and math assessments on 2,500 students in grades 1-4 from nine Indian schools serving children from low socio-economic backgrounds. The purpose of the assessments was to have baseline data available as the project moves forward with assigning students to instructional intervention groups, and for later comparisons of student reading and math performance after the implementation of the RTI framework. Ultimately, the collaborating Coimbatore schools will serve as model demonstration sites for other schools in Tamil Nadu, building local capacity and allowing for potential scale-up in using RTI.

"This project is forging a sustainable partnership between the University of Minnesota and Avinashilingam University that is benefitting the participating schools here in Minnesota as well as in India," observes Renáta Tichá, project coordinator. "It's providing faculty, staff, and students with mutual learning, research and training opportunities regarding students at risk for, and with, disabilities, as well as improving the education system in several low-performing elementary schools in Tamil Nadu."

From October 14 to November 14, two faculty and two graduate students from Avinashilingam University are visiting Minnesota to learn about RTI. They will spend half their time at ICI learning to use assessment data to assign students to appropriate instructional groups, to monitor their academic progress, and to understand school-wide implementation of RTI. The rest of the time the visitors will be embedded in two Minnesota school districts to observe the different components of RTI (assessment, instruction, and data meetings) in action and to practice some of the procedures and strategies.

This three-year, $250,000 project is funded by the United States-India Foundation through the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative. FFI, contact Renáta at tich0018@umn.edu or 612-624-5776, or Brian at abery001@umn.edu or 612-625-5592.