Vail Valley special education teachers go one-on-one |

Vail Valley special education teachers go one-on-one

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” Vail Valley, Colorado teacher Cassie Harrelson is helping her math students at Red Canyon High School improve, rather than sitting by and waiting for them to fall behind.

Harrelson teaches special education students at Red Canyon High School in a new way ” instead of lumping them all together into one category, students are getting attention in the subjects where they need it most.

The teaching method is called Response to Intervention, and the state now uses it as the standard for special education.

“It’s a new wave of how to deal with kids who don’t understand things,” Harrelson said. “It’s like a supplemental class.”

Student already in other math classes get the extra attention they need to improve in Harrelson’s class. She teaches and reviews the math basics that students need for all math classes ” things like logic, multiplication, division and formulas, she said.

It works because Harrelson said she has more time to work with the students, and because they’re not missing out on their regular math classes to learn basics in Harrelson’s class. The method is used as a supplement to what the students are already learning, she said.

Response to Intervention is one of the best ways to prevent more long-term academic struggles for students, said Bonnie Portorff, director of special education for the school district.

It doesn’t mean every student will move on and beat whatever learning disability they have, but teachers can now at least try to work on specific problems before putting kids into remedial classes or special education classes, Portorff said.

The Colorado Department of Education divides students into three categories, or tiers. Most students fall under tier one, while tier two students need more attention and tier three students need the most help in school.

The department sees these tiers as a way to not only help identify students who need Response to Intervention, but also as a way to close the achievement gap between all students.

Mike Gass, director of secondary education for the Eagle County School District, said Response to Intervention is not different from what the school district wants to accomplish in all of its schools ” the school district’s mission is “educating every student for success.”

“Kids can now get immediate services on some of the unique needs they have,” Gass said. “A lot of times, you had to wait for a kid to get bad enough before they could receive services.”

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

For more information about the state’s special education method, known as Response to Intervention, visit

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