RtI Commentaries

In April of 2007, a group of people with reknowned expertise in special education came together at the annual meeting of the Council for Exceptional Children and discussed several current issues about the topic of “response to intervention” (RtI). Response to intervention refers to both a multi-tiered approach to providing services in the general education environment that will affect students with many different disabilities and a component process that may now be used when identifying students with Learning Disabilities (LD).

Much of the professional literature on RtI has focused on the rationale for RtI, available prototypes for implementing RtI, and its utility in addressing problems in literacy, but many state and local education agencies are already piloting or implementing RtI efforts across grade levels and academic areas and with a diverse array of learners. The presentations in this strand provided a broad background for administrators, teachers, teacher educators, and researchers as they go forward with implementation of RtI models. Presenters discussed issues in (a) legal aspects of RtI, (b) multi-cultural and linguistic matters, (c) arithmetic and mathematics instruction, (d) secondary schools, (e) behavior management, and (e) evaluation of RtI implementations.

You may download PDF copies of the presentations from the following links. Note that not all are available at this time; I shall post others as I get a chance.

Title: How RtI Interacts with Legal Issues
Presenters: Dixie Huefner (University of Utah) and Perry Zirkel (Lehigh University)

IDEA 2004 permits state and local education agencies to experiment with RtI models for identification of students with Learning Disabilities. What does this change mean for parent protections and due process under IDEA ’04? When should parents be informed of their procedural safeguards? At what tier of intervention do legal requirements for timely conduct of full assessments begin? To what extent can RtI procedures be interpreted in light of previous legal holdings? Professors Huefner and Zirkel, both noted scholars on legal aspects of special education, will address these and other issues at the intersection of RtI and the law.

Title: RtI Meets Multi-cultural Issues in Special Education
Presenters: Yvonne Bui (University of San Francisco), Jose Luis Alvarado (San Diego State University),& Rosalind Simpson (University of San Francisco)

The RtI movement aims squarely at reducing the need for special education by providing services without identifying students as having disabilities. Perhaps nowhere in education is the identification of students as having disabilities more problematic than among non-majority ethnic groups. Special educators have examined and re-examined the over-representation of students of color in special education (see Coutinho & Oswald, 2005; President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education, PCESE, 2002) and educators have suggested that RtI will help correct this problem (Ingraham & Myers, 2000). The promise of RtI needs to be considered in relation to over-representation as well language-minority concerns. Professor Alvarado and colleagues examine fundamental questions and describe the state of knowledge at the intersection of RtI and multi-cultural issues in special education.

Title: RtI and Problems in Arithmetic and Mathematics
Presenters: Diane Pedrotty Bryant (University of Texas) and Brian R. Bryant (Psycho-Educational Services, Austin, TX)

In the academic arena, RtI models almost exclusively address reading disabilities, but not all students have problems only in reading. What do we know about practices for addressing problems in primary grades mathematics assessment and intervention? What do we know about Tier-1 mathematics instruction? What are the models of assessment that local education agencies can use to assess whether students are making sufficient progress in primary grades mathematics instruction? Beyond increasing instructional time and small-group instruction, what can Tier-2 and Tier-3 provide? This session examines these questions by discussing the components of a Three-Tier Mathematics Assessment and Intervention Model. (Also, Diane and Brian made available a document illustrating the mathematics assessment procedures they’ve used.)

Title: RtI and Secondary: How Will the Game Play Out?
Presenters: Charles Hughes and Donald Deshler

The RtI movement has a relatively brief history of implementation. That implementation history has also largely focused on research conducted within the primary and elementary school setting. Implementing an RtI model in the high school setting poses unique challenges, but other reform efforts in high schools provide guidelines for administrators and practitioners and have implications for RtI. One of those reform efforts is the initiative that all instructors have a role in improving students’ literacy. What does that literacy framework imply about shifting roles and responsibilities so educators create a continuum of increasingly intense interventions? What might screening and progress monitoring look like? Which obstacles for rigorous RtI implementation are technical, and which are the result of personal and social influences. As the saying goes, “if you only do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you’ve always got.” RtI will cause many people to reconsider their current outcomes and what they might do differently.

Title: RtI and Behavior Issues among Middle Schoolers
Presenter: Kathleen Lane

Early reading competence is the focus of much of RtI efforts, but many of the same principles can be applied with behavior disorders. Educators can use school-wide data to identify non-responsive students and support these youngsters using secondary interventions implemented within the regular school day. This presentation will (a) examine how to use school-wide data to identify students in need of secondary support at the middle school level and (b) investigate alternate methods of intervening with students that have both academic and behavioral concerns. We examine two interventions, study skills versus study skills plus conflict resolution. To what extent do students learn the skills and do they transfer to improved study skills habits or conflict resolution styles or academic performance, or overall levels of risk?

Title: So How Do you Know if it is Working?
Presenters: Lynn S. Fuchs and Douglas Fuchs

One of the hallmarks of RtI models is dependence on formative data to assess whether learners are making adequate practice, whether instructional practices are working. By the same reasoning, public policy makers and educational administrators will want to know whether RtI methods are actually yielding benefits. Beyond the easy answers (e.g., fewer students subjected to full evaluations and even fewer found eligible for special Learning Disability services), how should schools plan to evaluate their efforts? What are the appropriate metrics? Why are they appropriate? What are inappropriate metrics and why are they inappropriate? What are the appropriate and inappropriate comparisons? Are control schools needed, for example? How do factors such as annual fluctuations in characteristics of groups of children affect these judgments? This session will address the evaluation questions that will arise with the implementation of RtI models.

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