Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multitier process using evidence based instructional strategies that constantly measure a students' progress to determine the effectiveness of the strategies. RTI practices are referenced in both the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) reauthorization of 2004. The RTI model provides a valid means for identifying students while merging special education into the overall policies of NCLB such as having clear standards, useful measurements, and sound instructional practices (Wedl, 2005). The idea behind RTI's is that schools should not wait until a student is way behind to qualify them for special education. Schools should provide targeted and systematic interventions to all students as soon as they demonstrate the need (Buffum &Mattos & Weber, 2010 p. 10).
There are three general stages of RTI. In tier one there will be a universal screening based on state assessment, benchmark test, research based teaching strategies, and a high quality core curriculum to determine at risk students. Tier two is for students that do not respond to the strategies used in tier one. Modifications and assessments are developed. At this stage, the process includes assessing student's skills and evaluating the instructional environment, curriculum, and delivery (Canter &Klotz & Cowan, 2008 p.13). Students are monitored in small groups while progress is measured regularly. In the third tier students that are, still having trouble with instruction in tier two get further individualized instruction and maybe refereed for special education.
There are few options available for regular education students with learning or behavioral problem students. These students are prone to failure before they are put in a special education program. On the other hand, many students have been refereed as special education students when they are not. Many children who are not diagnosed early risk have a greater chance of dropping out and becoming a burden on society. According to Cantor, et. al, (2008, p.13), RTI provides a mechanism for supporting struggling students without waiting to determine special education eligibility. Frequent monitoring and early intervention reduces the chance of students being classified as special education. When implementing RTI the practice can look different from school to school. There are however necessary components that a successful RTI program must have. The common elements according to Canter, et.al (2008 p.14-15), are:
Administrative support-Principals and other school leaders should be knowledgeable about the use of scientifically based practices, team problem solving, and frequent student progress monitoring.
Systematic data collection-Accurate records must be kept at each tier and be easily accessible by teachers, parents, and other school support personnel.
Staff support and training-teachers must be giving the proper training in team problem solving and decision making through constant professional development.
Parent support- parents should be invited every step of the way during the design of the program. Collaboration with the parent will be key to successful intervention or program modification.
Understanding of legal requirements-All stakeholders should be knowledgeable about their states regulations for implementing IDEA, 2004 and the rules for identifying students with specific learning disabilities using RTI.
Realistic time line- RTI programs should not be rushed. It takes time to train teachers and get consultants on board. The first year should concentrate on tier one. Modification of the program will become necessary throughout the program.
Strong teams- collaboration among the teams are important for decision-making and sharing expertise.
Integration with existing scheduling-secondary schools have difficulty scheduling time to support students with individualized instruction. Study halls and block scheduling can provide the framework for modified instruction.
Coordination of existing intervention programs- dropout prevention programs or reading programs for students performing under state standards might be appropriate for tier two or tier three.
RTI has focused primarily in the elementary grades, however, the middle and secondary schools are starting to see the advantage to using RTI. Students who are familiar with RTI from elementary school and expect the same programs they are familiar with when then move to the middle school or high school. Secondary schools have the same problems with students struggling with literacy problems as does the elementary schools. Prevention is the key in earlier grades, however, if prevention has not occurred in the early years by the time the student gets to the middle school they already have a history of academic failure that only gets worse by high school (Ehren, 2011). There are different ways to think about prevention in adolescents. According to Ehren (2011), literacy is the key to academic success in secondary schools. The focus should be on speaking, listening, reading, and writing. As educators we have to dispel the myth that struggling adults are past the point learning. Giving up is not the answer, RTI can be effective at the secondary level, it just has to be administered differently than the in the elementary grades.
Developing an Action Plan for RTI in an Alternative Setting
Lakewood Educational Institute (LEI) is an alternative education program for students who are academically and behaviorally challenged. The idea behind this program is to change the behaviors of the students and get them back on track to graduating high school. The students range from grades 7-12; however, grades 7-8 are separated from the high school. With over 25 years in existence and a committed staff, LEI is ready for a program such as Response to Intervention.
Component 1. Consensus Building
Action 1. Develop a plan to get information to all stakeholders for support of RTI.
Step 1. Identify all stakeholders within the district- use previous contacts as well as networking for new stakeholders. These stakeholders will be the School Board, district staff, school administrators, teachers, support for teachers, additional student support, students, parents, academic agencies such as universities and colleges.
Action 2. Provide Information to all stakeholders.
Step 2. Provide flyers that explain the benefits, components, barriers, changes, and examples of RTI. - The school website can be used for the internal stakeholders. For the external stakeholders use mailers as well as directing them to the website.
Step 3. Gather all stakeholders for a district wide meeting. Discuss the importance of RTI. Hand out data from previous years showing the decline in literacy from elementary to high school in the district. In this step, we are trying to get everyone on board and committed to change.
Component 2: Building District Infrastructure
Action 1. Form a leadership team.
Step 1.the team should consist of English language learners, Administration, Directors, Assistant Superintendents of Instruction, Reading Specialists, Behavioral Specialists, RTI Support Facilitator, and Director of Secondary Education.
Step 2. Meeting dates and times will be established as well as the roles and functions of the team.
Action 2. Specify the roles the district administrators will play in implementing RTI.
Step 1. Identify the districts role in implementing RTI. The district will provide the legal for RTI as well as support the principal.
Step 2. Establish a curriculum council that will supervise the principals during implementation.
Step 3. Establish the role of the principal- establish meetings, participate and intervene when necessary, ensure progress, appoint team facilitator, provide professional development, support staff, oversee data collection.
Action 3. Develop and complete district needs assessment.
Step1. Analyze the districts frameworks for supporting universal instruction for Reading, Math, and writing.
Step 2. Develop a funding team. Analyze the resources necessary to support the implementation. Funding -Title I, II, III, IDEA as well as school grants.
Step 3. Conduct a gap analysis to determine where you are and where you want to go. This will be handled by the funding team and the resource team of the district.
Action 4. Discuss and Make decisions about the components of RTI.
Step 1. Discuss the features of universal instruction. Distinguish the difference for the 9-12 high school and the 7-8 middle school curriculums.
Step 2. Distinguish universal instruction for the middle school. Instruction for all students, 80% of students meeting or exceeding standards, use of reflective practices.
Step 3. Distinguish universal instruction for the High school. Ensure 80% of students meet or exceed standards, use of reflective practices, and instruction for all students.
Step 4. Make decisions about strategies. What features will be in place such as small groups, evidence based practices, and data driven screening and diagnostic assessment.
Step 5. Discuss and make decisions about intensive instruction and screening. How will the students be screened? What diagnostic assessments will be used? What progress monitoring assessments will be used? Some of the free assessments that can be used can be found at http://penningtonpublishing.com/assessments.php.
Action 5. Review current performance of students.
Step 1. Identify the criteria for each of the three tiers.
Step 2. Determine the percentage of the students that fall into each tier.
Step 3. Conduct a gap analysis. Compare the data for each subject to the ideal percentages. Identify skill area weaknesses.
Step 4. Assess the need of the school in the use of technology for gathering data. Professional development should be already in place for administrators. The teachers will have professional development workshops with assistance coming from the district administrator team.
Step 6. Develop a plan for feedback. Develop a RTI manual and district phone book.
Component 3: Implementation
Action 1: Develop a multiyear action plan 3-5 years for implementation.
Step 1. Document the policies and procedures in writing for RTI.
Step 2. Train school base level trainers
Step 3. Identify a meeting time for monthly RTI support.
Action 2: Professional Development
Step 1. Identify a district training team, which includes the school psychologist, staffing specialists, curriculum specialists, reading coaches, and math coaches.
Step 2. Purchase and gather materials needed to assist in professional development.
Step 3. Initiate training.
Action 3. Implement evaluation and data analysis for RTI implementation.
Step 1. Implement data management systems and technology.
Step 2. District RTI teams review data
Step 3 schedule regular meetings for review of evaluation data, adjust implementation, troubleshoot, and manage resources.
Step 4. Communicate regularly with parents and school board.
Scenario Using RTI
Sam a ninth grader is referred to LEI for academic reasons and getting into fights. His grades are D's and F's.
Step 1. Sam is tested; his reading is on a 7th grade level. Sam does his work in class but does not put effort into it.
Step 2. Tier 1. Intervention. Sam is given one on one instruction with extra time needed to finish assignments. A resource teacher works with Sam regularly Each step taken is recorded in a ledger.
Step 3. Monitoring Progress- Sam has little improvement. Differentiated instruction is given that is tailored to Sims needs. The progress is recorded.
Step 4. Tier II. Intervention- with Sam still below grade level, the teacher meets with the team and develops a specific plan for Sam. A meeting is held with the specialists and the parents, modifications are made to his reading assignments. The progress is recorded.
Step 5. Tier III. If Sam still has not made sufficient progress, review by the team's administrator might lead to referral to special services.