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However, the implementation of RtI has encouraged collaboration between the regular and special educator in the general education classroom (Murawski & Hughes, 2008). Collaboration amongst school personnel and teachers throughout the RtI process will be a necessity to ensure success of all students. While the special educator will continue to be responsible for students identified with a disability, special educators could have shared responsibilities with general education teachers during implementation of RtI in their school (Bryant & Barrera, 2009).
The knowledge, skills and competencies of the special education teachers in the areas of evidence-based instruction, assessments, targeted interventions, and continued collaboration across all educational environments are critical during RtI implementation (Cummings, Atkins, Allison, & Cole 2008). At Tier I, the focus for RtI is ensuring the core curriculum is delivered successfully and consists of evidence based practices. Teachers need to identify, use, and interpret results of screening and diagnostic assessments to ensure all students are being successful in the classroom. The data from student assessment results will be interpreted to make decisions about which students may be at risk and require Tier II interventions. General educators may not feel comfortable with analyzing and interpreting the data. Special educators, on the other hand, typically have more knowledge, experience, and skills in interpreting assessments (Richards et al., 2007). Therefore, collaboration between these educators to determine current levels of student achievement is essential.
Based on student data, more intensive, supplemental interventions, aligned with the core curriculum, are delivered at Tier II. Although this differs from school to school, general educators deliver interventions to small groups of students. Special educators may assist and offer consultative and coaching services to the general educator to ensure the fidelity of implementation of interventions and differentiated instruction (Richards et al., 2007). The special educator may support the general educator in collecting the data and using the information to make future decisions about instruction and interventions.
Students who are still not showing adequate progress may receive the most intensive services during Tier III. Although these students may receive the majority of their instruction and interventions in the general education setting, they may also receive additional 1:1 or small group support of specialized intensive interventions from a specialist. This may be the special educator who is knowledgeable about the intervention. In addition, again the knowledge and skills of continuous progress monitoring of the special educator are important throughout the tiers of RtI implementation (Cummings et al., 2008). Therefore, it will be imperative that the general educator and special educator remain collaborative and communicate throughout this process.
The focus and implementation of RtI is to ensure improved achievement for all students. Teachers and school personnel collaborate to meet this goal. Knowledge, skills, and competencies of the special educator are critical to achieve positive learning results from all students. Since RtI is a process in which students with learning disabilities will be identified and the needs of struggling students will be met (Murawski & Hughes, 2009), the roles of the special education teacher will be expanded to use these important competencies throughout the RtI model. Together, evidence based instruction and targeted interventions, implemented with fidelity, hold the promise of improving student achievement for all students as indicated through continuous progress monitoring. The knowledge, skills, and competencies of the special education teacher in these areas will now be contributed to the school-based RtI team within the general education setting.
The implementation of RtI throughout the United States cannot be summarized and written into one, formal guide for all teachers and school-based educators. RtI is a process with key features. Each state, each district, and each school must look at the needs of their students and decide how to conduct the process of RtI in a way that works best for them (Barrera & Bryant, 2009). As educators within classrooms, schools, and school districts continue to implement the mandated Response to Intervention, new procedures, skills, and practices will be developed to meet its mandate. Due to the perceived differences and similarities of the processes, discourse needs to occur. A comprehensive plan for implementation will enhance the successful implementation of evidence-based instruction and interventions. Special education teachers can add their expertise and skills as they serve collaboratively on comprehensive, multidisciplinary RtI teams. They have the competencies, skills, and knowledge needed to meet the overall mission of the team: to use the problem solving process to create an instructional or intervention plan based on individual learner needs within the school-wide RtI framework. Although the RtI model seems simple and straightforward, putting its process into action requires much consideration and planning to make it valid, reliable, and feasible (Bender & Shores, 2007). However, with the knowledge, skills, and commitment of special education teachers and other educators, classroom instructional concerns will be solved through the continued discourse and collaborative problem-solving within the school-based teams.