This is the opportunity to have nationally renowned, experienced implementers and/or researchers answer your questions. We know RTI can be confusing at times, which is why we've lined up some of the most knowledgeable people to help. Send us your questions for an in-depth, informative answer. Check below for answers to frequent questions.
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Response from Laura Kaloi, Public Policy Director, National Center for Learning Disabilities: IDEA 2004 encourages schools to begin using a process that determines if a student responds to a "scientific, research-based intervention" as a part of the evaluation procedures to determine which students may have a specific learning disability (SLD) and need special education. Response to Intervention (RTI) is the most commonly used method among the many multi-tiered intervention systems/methods being used by schools, districts and states. Currently, there is no specific language in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or No Child Left Behind (NCLB) that explicitly allows or requires funds to be used for the same purpose. Making this more explicit is important because it is NCLB, not IDEA that is the authorizing law for Title I services in schools targeting low-income schools. Title I provides funds to ensure there are extra funds for staff, training and resources for students struggling in reading and math – impacting the majority of our schools nationwide (e.g. the state of NY receives over $1 billion in Title I funding annually). In order to make NCLB and IDEA more congruent and ensure that funding can flow from both IDEA and NCLB to help struggling learners, it is important that NCLB include explicit language that allows the use of Title I funds for RTI.
Response from Alexa Posny, Ph.D., Kansas Commissioner of Education: Response to intervention (RTI) is not mandated by federal law or federal regulation. In fact, the phrase "response to intervention" never appears in either federal law or regulation. What is included in the IDEA regulations (Sec. 300.307) in the determination whether a child has a specific learning disability, is that the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement is no longer required (however it can be still be used) and that it is permissible to "use a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention…" What causes confusion for some is that RTI is being shared by many practitioners and researchers as a systematic process of screening all students for academic difficulty, implementing instructional/interventions that have evidence to support their efficacy, monitoring student progress in these interventions, and applying more intense levels or "tiers" of interventions as needed. The use of RTI as a systematic process for screening, intervening and monitoring—while not mandated by federal law—is what was intended under IDEA to determine a child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention.
Additionally, another initiative that is often confused with RTI is Early Intervening Services (EIS). EIS is sometimes viewed as an individual student problem solving approach or a standard protocol approach to interventions. Under IDEA, a local education agency may use up to 15 percent of its IDEA Part B funds to develop and implement the provision of early intervening services for students who have not yet been identified as needing special education but who need additional academic and behavioral support to succeed in general education.
In Kansas, to assist the field in implementing a prevention and/or intervention system of support for any child, we have referred to it as a Multi-Tier System of Supports or MTSS. MTSS encompasses both RTI and EIS and more. Simply put, MTSS is a continuum of increasingly intense research-based interventions provided to students that respond to their academic and/or behavioral needs. It includes ongoing monitoring of the effectiveness of the interventions provided. The outcome is to ensure that each Kansas student achieves to high standards.
Response from W. David Tilly, Ph.D.: Response to Intervention (RtI) is most accurately described as a movement rather than a thing. For the past 30 years or so, a fairly tight knit group of people across the country have been quietly working on ways to bring evidence-based practice into schools. There have been a number of iterations in that direction. Some of the earliest roots of what is now known as RtI can be found in practices such as precision teaching (Ogden Lindsley), direct instruction (Zig Engelmann and Wes Becker), behavioral consultation (John Bergan), and curriculum-based measurement (Stan Deno). All of these approaches and initiatives have concerned themselves with improving instruction for students in measurable ways, using objective growth of student skills as the criterion of effectiveness. Many different implementations of evidence-based practice have been tried in many parts of the country, with varying degrees of success—and many important lessons were learned. The people involved with these implementations were both researchers and practitioners, but they shared one characteristic. They were intensely interested in not only figuring out "what works" but also "how to make it work" in the real world of schools. As time went by, we got better and better at improving results for students until something of a perfect storm occurred:
We had data showing that despite our best efforts, many students still were not benefiting sufficiently from their school experience.
The world became globalized and if the United States is to remain competitive, nearly all of our students are going to have to achieve at much higher levels.
The accountability movement in the United States (led primarily by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002) was forcing schools to pay much more attention to the achievement of all of their students. At the same time, funding for education was at best flat.
So there was this huge quest to figure out how to become both more efficient and more effective across the board in schools. Into this vacuum entered what is now called RtI. Stated plainly, RtI results from the marriage of a long history of evidence-based practices (and the lessons learned there from) with a new and more efficient resource-deployment system (the Three-Tier Approach) that better allows schools to match instructional resources directly to the nature and intensity of student learning needs. Fancy sounding words that basically mean that RtI lets schools look at kids' needs and use their resources most efficiently to provide effective instruction for all of them.
In short, schools that are effective do three things well:
They figure out what they want kids to know and be able to do.
They align their curriculum and instruction to teach those things.
They keep score.
RtI provides the evidence-based tools to help schools do these things efficiently. So where does RtI come from? It comes from the confluence of a long history of applied research and practice coupled with improved engineering for delivering instruction in the real world, all wrapped up in the perfect storm of political and social policy imperatives demanding better outcomes for all of our children. Put that all together with a big dose of common sense and you get RtI.
Response from Bob Heimbaugh: RtI is based on sound research based principals that have a demonstrated track record of success. While the interventions that you have used in your classroom have shown success, one has to question whether the interventions align to the systematic implementation of the RtI process in a school. What we know about research based interventions is that they greatly increase the academic success of children in our classrooms. Here are some components associated with scientifically based instruction:
Fidelity: Fidelity means that an instructional practice is delivered exactly as designed. Fidelity ensures that instruction is constant and provides the foundation for determining whether or not an instructional strategy is impacting student learning
Explicit: Explicit instruction is really direct instruction that focuses on an instructional sequence that builds on skills. Explicit instruction allows for teachers to measure growth more accurately over time and allows for the scaffolding of skills that build on previous learning.
Systematic: Systematic instruction deals with helping students how to learn. A research based instructional methodology has aligned tools and techniques to the content that have been proven to be effective.
Replication: Research based instructional strategies can be replicated. In essence, all teachers using a scientifically based instructional practice in a school are teaching the same concepts and skills in the same manner. This replication provides feedback to the instructional and learning experience, and allows teachers to track instructional impact and student learning.
Collaboration: One of the most powerful components of RtI is that teachers come together to address instructional practice that focuses on student learning. Research based instructional practice establishes the foundation, vocabulary, and focus for a school as the school addresses student learning needs.
In conclusion, scientifically based instruction brings the entire school together to address the learning needs of students based on sound instructional practice that have been proven to work. Using scientifically based instructional practice greatly increases the chance for student success. This practice is also measurable, scaffolds skills across grade levels, and can be taught by everyone in the building the same way. Because of this consistency, a collaborative, systematic instructional approach is developed in a school that has a proven track record of success.
Response from Barbara J. Ehren, Ed.D.: In general RTI at the secondary level does not have the track record that it has at the elementary level. In the scheme of things, we haven't been at this process for very long. When addressing RTI efficacy it is important to ask "efficacy for what purpose?" In looking at the twofold purpose of RTI, we could address efficacy in preventing school failure and efficacy in identifying students with learning disabilities. I would like to address the first purpose. When we talk about prevention in high school, we are addressing the prevention of further failure and the often dire consequences of school failure (e.g. alienation, dropping out, anti-social behavior). It would be hard to argue that a high school shouldn't address the needs of struggling learners by having intervention options that increase with intensity (aka RTI). The alternative is to allow students to fail unless they can qualify for special education (and not all of them should or would qualify). Moral reasons aside, in this age of accountability high schools cannot afford to ignore struggling learners. It is a myth that adolescence is too late for intervention. We do have a substantial body of research that has demonstrated that intervention with high school students can improve academic performance, including literacy. However, until we have more experience with RTI in high school we will not know how effective a systematic approach to varying levels of intervention intensity can be in preventing school failure. But can we live with the alternative in today's schools?
Response from Scott Baker Ph.D., University of Oregon: It's important to note that Response to Intervention (RTI) is still in its earliest stages and definitive statements about its outcomes are very hard to make right now. That being said, RTI does have the potential to shine the spotlight onto a range of important instructional variables that will help all kids learn important knowledge, skills, and behaviors in school.
Students with and without disabilities will benefit from more effective classroom instruction. One result of better instruction should be a reduction in the number of students who are being retained because their schools feel they have not learned enough to move to the next grade. Some of those kids, as you know, have not learned enough for the schools to conclude they should be retained because the instruction they have received has not been of sufficient quality or carefully planned and delivered to support the instructional needs these students have. RTI is supposed to give educators a way to deliver instruction that is better able to support the full range of students in schools.
Without improving instruction, whether it’s in behavior or academics, reductions in grade retention will not really mean anything in terms of student learning and development. It will just mean that they are still not learning enough in a grade that is one grade higher than the one they were in the year before.
Response from Anna Munson, MBA, St. Louis Public Schools: It is often stated that RTI would represent a cost savings to districts/LEAs based on several assumptions:
Reductions in referral and identification of LD
Focused comprehensive evaluations requiring less testing
Fewer students needing special education services, causing a decrease in the number of special education teachers, aides, etc.
Incidental savings such as an increase in attendance, which many states use to calculate funding for districts
The assumptions are reasonable based on what we know about RTI, however, there is little quantifiable data to use as support for the claim that it will actually save dollars. Since there is no official RTI program or model, it would certainly be difficult to conduct a true cost analysis that accounts for and/or eliminates variables such as program design and integrity. A cost savings could likely be projected for a well designed program, but those savings wouldn’t be realized if the program was poorly implemented.
There are reports published by individual intervention programs capturing potential cost savings for implementation of the program, using assumptions similar to those listed above. One of these is Reading Recovery.
It’s a logical conclusion that these reports of cost savings could be representative of those a district could achieve with any legitimate RTI program, as they are based on the same core list of assumptions. There is just not a lot out there for RTI cost/savings analysis. This may be an area where some money could be available for research.
While Amy Campbell’s presentation on the Behavior Education Program is more high school focused, I think it provides valuable information that can work well for the middle school level.
Michigan’s Integrated Behavior and Learning Support Initiative’s website also provides useful resources on Tier 2.
A more tertiary related intervention program is Futures Planning as developed by Dr. JoAnne Malloy at the University of New Hampshire.
It is very important to make sure the interventions that are selected are based on the purpose of the behavior (e.g., function, escape, avoid). The resources I have started using for understanding the function of behavior are:
Chandler, L. K., & Dahlquist, C. M. (2010). Functional assessment: Strategies to prevent and remediate challenging behavior in school settings (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Dunlap, G., Iovannone, R., Kincaid, D., Wilson, K., Christiansen, K., Strain, P., & English, C. (2010). Prevent-teach-reinforce: The School-based model of individualized positive behavior support. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes
I have found these resources to include very practical functional assessment tools and research based interventions. These interventions are linked to the functions of behavior as identified in the book.
These are excellent questions, however, I would like to preface my answer by saying I am not an expert in school law or regulations. Given my lack of knowledge in these issues, I would not be able to say legally the answers to both questions below. However, from a programming issue, there are several thoughts that I might provide.
In Michigan, we have looked at behavioral screener(s) as a way to match student supports to student needs. This is different from using the screener for identification around Special Education eligibility. The use of behavioral screener to adjust the educational program to better meet the student needs is similar to the use of classroom or district academic assessments, when teachers use this information to adjust the academic curriculum.
I would want to understand why a parent would want to refuse RtI services for behavior support. Our approach to behavior support is that all students should be provided with educational/social behavior program that enables the student to be successful within the school setting with preparation for career or college readiness. If the parent is concerned about identifying students for exclusion from general education curriculum or from social interaction with peers, then addressing this issue is differentce from a concern that the student does not need behavior support.
I would try to make sure that the behavior RtI focuses on the following main points:
All students can benefit from schoolwide positive behavior support that promotes a culture of competence by shared expectations, experiences and language
There is an emphasis on successful student outcomes with monitoring of progress and responsive supports based on amount of progress
Intensity of interventions areon based on student need, the greater the need, the more intense the intervention
I would also hope that parents are viewed as partners within the school's RtI program rather than excluded in the collaboration process.
It is important to better understand the reason why there is parental concern around the use of the behavioral screener. Once this concern is identified, a response should be provided that addresses the specific concern.
The difference I see with intensive behavior is that it is identified along two features- Frequency and/or Severity. A high frequency problem behavior may certainly be considered intensive when it significantly impacts the individual's quality of life or learning environment. Additionally, a low frequency problem behavior may also be considered intensive when the behavior is severe enough to be illegal, or has the potential to cause significant harm to self or others or produce significant property damage.
When providing programming for students, I believe we need to gather enough information to be confident that we can create effective and appropriate interventions to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students. Given this consideration, I believe that there are situations where the behavior places a student at risk to self or others that expedite movement to a Tier 3 intervention. Even though we may consider intensive interventions without testing to see if a Tier 2 program might work, we still need to gather specific information on the variables that contribute to the occurrence of problem behavior (e.g., functional assessment). This is done to develop an intervention with higher probability of being successful.
Response from Hank Bohanon: When office discipline referrals (ORDs) are used for screening, they are typically a part of the normal routine of the school. Sometimes, other data are used in conjunction with ORDs to "screen" for problem behavior (e.g., attendance, tardy, suspensions). I have not seen schools ask for permission when using data that are typically a part of the functioning of the school for screening purposes. In other cases when a risk/protective factors survey is used, school boards have needed to provide approval before the assessment was conducted. In this way, representatives of the school community have input into the process. In best practice, parents are notified about the process for tiers of assessment and intervention and are allowed to provide input at local school council meetings, etc. I would suggest always working with the school administrators who should be aware of the policies of the district.
Response from Robert Volpe, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology, Northeastern University: It is important to differentiate pre-referral assessments from assessments for eligibility determination. In regard to the latter, the law and ethical guidelines are clear that one should seek parental consent, although IDEA does identify some cases where parental consent is not needed. With regard to behavioral screenings, this falls into the realm of pre-referral assessment. Here the Child Find component of IDEA must be considered. According to Part C of IDEA states are required to identify students with disabilities. Since the screening you are asking about is pre-referral and not used for eligibility determination, I don't believe that informed consent is necessary. That said, it is important to note that screening measures should never be used for diagnosis because they were not designed for that purpose. In fact, I would say that any decisions about the child that might be made based on screening results are best done in collaboration with parents.
Response from Pedro A. Noguera, Ph.D.: There are no programs per se that work at reducing the drop-out rate but there are several strategies that are showing results. The first question we should ask is "Why is it that there are several secondary schools across the country that serve "high need" students but have low dropout rates?" Invariably what we find when we look at these schools are:
early intervention strategies for kids in trouble
pro-active mentoring programs so that at risk students are connected to caring adults who provide guidance and advice
academic support strategies that help students who come to high school with low skills and/or over-age
community partnerships to connect kids to jobs, internships and opportunities that help them to set clear future goals
Following are two references for additional reading on this topic:
Barth, P., Haycock, K., Jackson, H., Mora, K., Ruiz, P., Robinson, S., & Wilkins, A. (Eds). (1999). Dispelling the myth: High poverty schools exceeding expectations. Washington, DC: Education Trust.
Bryk, A. & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. New York: Russell Sage.
Response from Mary Beth Klotz, Ph.D.: IDEA 2004 states that the screening of a student by a teacher or specialist to determine appropriate instructional strategies for curriculum implementation shall not be considered to be an evaluation for eligibility for special education and related services (Sec.614(a)(1)(E)). Universal screening of all students for the purpose of planning behavioral strategies therefore would not require parent consent. It is always best practice, however, to keep parents informed and involved with important school initiatives, programs, and assessments. Parental involvement is considered an essential component to successful RTI implementation. It is critical that parents are provided with information about universal screenings, the instruction and interventions used, the staff members delivering the instruction, the academic or behavioral goals for their child, and their child’s progress. It is also important to keep in mind that some school districts have policies requiring parental notice and informed consent for screenings. Similarly, some commercial screening tools recommend parental notice and informed consent as well. In both these instances, parental notice and informed consent should be obtained.
Also of consideration for the team to discuss before selecting options for universal screeners for behavior/emotional problems is how intrusive the tool may be in terms of requiring personal information. There are sources of data that are routinely collected that are less intrusive and do not require parental consent such as attendance records, discipline referrals, and suspensions. It is also recommended that parents are included on the decision-making team that selects universal screening tools.
Response from George Sugai, Ph.D.: First, remember that RtI is not itself an intervention. RtI is a problem solving framework that emphasizes the use of current student data to guide selection of an evidence-based practice that can be implemented with high fidelity or accuracy. Regular evaluation of student responsiveness to an intervention is conducted to determine if an intervention should be continued, adapted, or replaced.
Second, RtI relies on the careful use of DATA to narrow what a student needs to learn/do (OUTCOME). After an outcome is delineated, a tested intervention (PRACTICES) that has been shown to be effective in producing the desired outcome should be selected. Most importantly, implementers must have the SUPPORTS to be fluent and accurate implementers of the intervention. Even the best intervention will not be effective if not implemented with fidelity or not aligned with what the student needs to learn.
Third, whether we are looking at whole school, entire classrooms, or individual students, the above RtI considerations must be in place so that we (a) understand what the student is doing and why, (b) match the best evidence-based intervention to what we learn from this assessment, and (c) arrange the implementation environment and prepare the intervention implementers so that intervention will be implemented with accuracy, durability, relevance, and efficiency. This last consideration may be one of the most important.
Finally, the above can not be done by an individual, but should be done by a team that has family participation, behavioral expertise, and good implementers. So, it is difficult to suggest specific interventions or practices for any one student by only looking at the student's label or diagnosis, or behavior types in isolation of the context or environments in which those behaviors are observed and not observed. From an RtI perspective, it is important to remember that the more non-responsive a student's behavior is, the more intensive and adult supervised the intervention must be. Thus, peer-based and self-management strategies would generally be expected to be less effective, unless adult supports are continued.
Response from George Sugai, Ph.D.: RTI is a larger problem solving framework for improving decision making based on student responsiveness to intervention for both academic and social behavior. On the behavior side of RTI, positive behavior support provides an organizational structure for establishing a continuum of behavioral interventions for all students. Before discussing secondary/tertiary tier interventions, evidence-based school-wide and classroom-wide primary interventions must be implemented with fidelity and for all students. Thus, if we have not implemented primary tier interventions with accuracy and consistency, discussing secondary/tertiary tier interventions is difficult.
If we can confirm that primary tier interventions are in place, the research-based secondary/tertiary interventions are considered based on (a) data on the student's non-responsiveness (i.e., problem behavior and context) and (b) type of interventions. With regard to the latter, two general types of interventions are considered. First, are published/manualized school-based interventions (e.g., First Step to Success, Steps to Respect, Skillstreaming, Think Time, Good Behavior Game, Behavior Education Program, Check and Connect, Check In-Check Out). Second, are behaviorally based practices (e.g., functional behavioral interventions and behavior support planning, behavioral contracting, targeted social skills instruction, positive reinforcement, differential reinforcement, cognitive behavioral counseling, self-management training, peer-based behavior management).
In PBS, the impact of the above practices are only as good as the systems supports, for example, (a) match between student need and the intervention, (b) fidelity of implementation, (c) intervention fluency of the implementers, (d) consistency and comprehensiveness of the implementation across settings and implementers, and (e) timeliness of data-based decision making.
For additional information, see my article, School-Wide Positive Behavior Support and Response to Intervention and visit the National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavior Interventions and Support Web site.
...around and waste so much time. I can get them to work but they don't progress significantly when I progress monitor them. We use repeated readings and short passages to practice comprehension skills. The do ok, however test horribly. They do not do well independently. Could you offer me some suggestions?
Response from Hank Bohanon, Ph.D.: One option would be to reward their behavior extrinsically. Also, sometimes you can use behavioral momentum. You have them start by talking about topic of high interest and then move into your request for a less preferred activity (get them to say “yes” to something several times before you give the reading request). Also, I would try to have your flexible group meet where other students cannot observe their reading. When given the choice between looking "bad" or "dumb" most people choose the latter — I can do something about being bad, but it is not cool to be perceived as unintelligent. Another suggestion would be to see what they are doing when they are off task—if you find they are talking about cars, sports, etc., find content that is preferred and incorporate this into your lesson (make sure it is on their level). You can do a quick readability scan in Microsoft Word when you check options under grammar and spelling. You also can see about functional outcomes for these students. What is something they would like to do that could be produced by improved reading—perhaps it is creating a project, building a model, or talking with the group about a personal hobby? They might need to gain more facts or would want to share a story they have written. The point is to have a functional outcome for the reading. Finally, offer a choice (within an approved range of not more than two or three) regarding the location of the reading, and/or the content. Sometimes the ability to make a choice will increase active participation.
Response from Claudia Rinaldi, Ph.D., Assistant Director of the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative, Education Development Center:
RTI, when implemented with high fidelity, has the potential to positively impact the outcomes for ELLs with and without disabilities. However, in a recent study conducted for the state of Massachusetts, ELL administrators and special education administrators reported that ESL teachers and administrators were rarely included in the RTI teams or in common planning time in their schools. They additionally reported that there is much confusion about which services should be provided to an ELL with disabilities, where those services should be provided, and how to capture this in the individualized education program (IEP). ESL supports are part of the core Tier 1 curriculum, so one important consideration is to include the ESL teacher in core Tier 1 curriculum planning, screening, data-driven intervention planning and delivery, and progress monitoring.
Another critical consideration for serving ELLs with and without disabilities in schools implementing RTI is how the school’s RTI teams can be leveraged to increase collaboration and data-driven instructional planning and progress monitoring for all students, including ELLs with disabilities. The following recommendations can help teachers working with ELLs with disabilities in schools implementing an RTI model:
Ensure that school- and grade-level (and cross grade-level) RTI teams meet weekly and that they have representation from regular education, special education, and ESL teachers and para professionals as feasible.
Ensure that RTI teams discuss Tier 1 core instruction and adaptations and strategies that differentiate instruction appropriately for ELLs with and without disabilities. It is recommended at this stage that teams adopt a fidelity checklist for core Tier 1 instruction.
Once Tier 1 core curriculum planning is happening within collaborative structures and with fidelity, options for tiered interventions should be outlined and discussed. Have the discussions emphasize some key aspect, such as matching the intervention to a progress-monitoring tool; identifying screening and progress monitoring options for grade level and instructional level; planning the frequency, duration, and intensity options; determining how to ensure delivery by the most qualified professional; and evaluating feasibility.
Develop and implement an efficient meeting protocol so that the teams can discuss various students who are in need of tiered interventions.
When discussing an ELL with disabilities, ensure that the student’s teachers bring Tier 1/grade level progress-monitoring data, that the special education teacher bring instructional level progress-monitoring data, and that the ESL teacher bring progress-monitoring data on English language proficiency (data would have been predetermined in the initial universal screening and data-driven process for this student).
Think out of the box on how to capitalize on staff with training in at least two of the areas (regular and special education, special education and ESL, or regular education and ESL). Reorganization of these professionals is critical in an RTI model in order to capitalize on services and expertise for addressing the instruction and intervention for these students.
Create schedules that support staff (i.e., staff who can push in and out and have multiple areas of expertise). For example, a school can adopt a staggered literacy block or ESL block where support personnel can move from hour to hour, or the school can adopt an enrichment and intervention block where you can provide the ESL teacher with the time for intervention.
Implement a data calendar schoolwide to support discussion on screenings and progress-monitoring cycles.
Adopt a data-driven problem solving cycle.
Organize a schoolwide data work meeting where the school can set unique goals for the entire community of students as well as specific goals for groups or subgroups of students who may be doing poorly (i.e., ELLs at Tiers 1 and 2 with identified disabilities).
Work with agencies across the nation specializing in providing training and technical assistance to develop professional development sessions that address how to support ELLs specifically at each tier.
There are various challenges still ahead on the actual progress monitoring of English language development levels for these students, but many school districts are developing informal tools that follow their standards-based assessments. The key is to closely monitor gains in each English language development level by using task analysis of the expected skills in each level of proficiency. Task analysis is a typical practice used in special education that identifies the outcomes skills and then breaks down the skills a student must complete in order to identify where the breakdown in learning is occurring. Collaboration between special education and ESL teachers will be critical in developing a checklist that may serve as a tool in the process of developing a monthly or weekly progress-monitoring schedule.
The goal should be to ensure that the team’s level of collaboration is high so that students can get Tier 1, 2, and 3 supports as needed by the most trained professional and that the entire team feels a responsibility for the outcome of all students and, in particular, for ELLs with disabilities.
Response from Amy Galicia, Ph.D. Candidate, School of Education, University of Colorado at Boulder: Dual Language programs actually have an advantage over traditional English schools because they can and do provide support in students’ primary language (L1). Tier 1 Universal Instruction is a key component in a Dual Language Program, not only because it is in the students' first language for part of the time, but also because instruction must meet the needs of all students regardless of their levels of language proficiency. The universal instruction in Dual Language is/should be delivered in such a way to allow for growth in content and language - no matter the language of instruction. Tier 1 instruction should be the very first thing that is addressed in the RTI model, and often it is overlooked in many schools and programs. All too often we move to interventions without first examining what we can do at Tier 1.
Nevertheless, the RTI model of support suggests that there will be students who will need targeted and intense levels of support even with solid Tier 1 instruction. If that is the case, then this is where the advantage of Dual Language shines even more.
In true Dual Language programs, students are learning literacy in primary language (L1)and secondary language (L2) in the form of English as a Second Language and the target language – most often Spanish as a Second Language (SSL). In addition, content in math, science and social studies are taught in both languages – the delivery varies among models – meaning one week in English, the next in Spanish for example. Regardless if the model is 90-10 or 50-50, support for literacy or math can be provided in the child's L1 and/or L2. When extra support is needed, the tough question is "In which language should the intervention be provided?"
The best piece of advice that I can offer in deciding how best to meet a student’s needs is to first answer this critical question: What about the curriculum, instruction, interaction between students, and the learning environment can we alter so that the child will learn better? Many struggles that students have can be addressed by simply starting with this question.
When it comes to interventions for emerging bilingual students in a Dual Language program, I try not to make general statements about emerging bilingual students because this is a very diverse group of students. What one student needs usually is very different from what another student needs. However, generally speaking, if a student is struggling and needs a targeted or intense level of support in literacy or numeracy, often it is a benefit to the student to have the intervention in the students' first language. That is - if that is what the student needs.
How do we determine what the student needs? It is critical to study deeply the linguistic history of the individual student and make decisions from there. How old is the student? What grade? What is the root cause of the issue? What does literacy instruction look like for the student? How long has the student been learning literacy in L1? L2? How many siblings? Older? Younger? What does language look like in the home? Is it a bilingual home? What did language look like in the home from birth to Kindergarten? Etc. The linguistic history and language proficiency data can help us determine the answer to the following question: How do we know that the issue stems from the first language and is not about English Language Acquisition? Addressing this question will help in the creation of the intervention.
It is important to gather data on both languages to help determine the root cause of the issue being seen. Examining the progress of acquiring English over time and comparing it to literacy in L1 (and numeracy data if the concern is mathematical) helps in this analysis. Once an analysis of the linguistic history has been done, the problem solving team - which includes parents - can determine what the intervention looks like - including what is the language of the intervention. More often than not, in Dual Language programs, these teams are able to provide support in the child's L1, whereas in traditional settings, this is not a possibility.
So to answer this question, "In which language should students be receiving support?" The answer is "It depends..." but generally, if there is a concern, Dual Language programs can decipher between language acquisition and struggles in L1. I would venture to say, if the struggle is in acquiring English (L2), much could be done at Tier 1 within the regular classroom. If the struggle stems from L1 - then what is the cause? Be specific and targeted in the plan. For example, in reading - is the issue comprehension? phonics? In math, is it number sense? patterns? problem solving? Determining the cause helps determine the goals for the plan and the details which include the frequency, intensity and duration of the intervention.
"Should that support be taught in their native language if the subject is only being taught in that student’s second language?" This question strikes me as a curious one if it is about Dual Language. Dual Language means that all subjects are taught at some point in the child's first language and in the target language, so I'm not sure I understand how this could happen in Dual Language. The only thing I can think of is in a 90-10 model and the student is a native English speaker immersed in the target language in Kindergarten or First grade. If that is the case, I recommend determining the root cause in the area of concern. If the struggles stem from the student’s L1, provide the intervention in the L1. If the root cause is language acquisition - look at Tier 1 instruction.
One other important aspect of RTI and Dual Language is the unique characteristic of extended/expanded learning opportunities for students who are talented and gifted. Dual Language can challenge students in their L1 and L2. RTI is not just for students who struggle in the traditional sense, but who also need a push to go further. Problem solving teams can make advanced learning plans too.
Response from Claudia Rinaldi, Ph.D., Senior Associate, Education Development Center: Boston Public Schools (BPS) is starting to implement RTI and PBIS in their schools, including their schools with two-way Dual Language Spanish English Programs. Since there is very limited research on RTI and dual language programs, BPS is using what we know works and applying best research RTI practices to the dual language schools.
One of the dual language schools where RTI and PBIS are being implemented is a K-8 urban school with 325 students. While the student population is overwhelmingly Hispanic (making up 66.5% of the student body), it also includes African American (17.5%), Caucasian (12.6%), Asian American (1.2%) students. 16.9% of the students are also in special education.
Below is a description of how we are implementing RTI and PBIS at this particular school:
Phase 1– We have begun by providing professional development on Response to Intervention and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support. The school has selected to focus on reading as part of the initiative.
Phase 2– The school has conducted universal screening of reading skills for all K-2 grades students using DIBELS and TRC in Spanish and English.
Phase 3– Follow-up professional development has focused on understanding the data by looking at class level tiered breakdown in the dominant language and in the non dominant language for each group and are beginning to have conversations about what is CORE reading instruction in both English and Spanish and discussing their similarities and differences. For example, the data in this particular school showed that 90% of English dominant students in Kindergarten scored at benchmark on letter naming fluency and about 72% of these students scored at benchmark on phoneme segmentation. 67% of the Spanish dominant students, however, scored at benchmark in Spanish letter naming and 85% of these students scored at benchmark on Spanish phoneme segmentation. These results have triggered a conversation about teaching reading in each language and the skills we expect the students to have in each language by the end of the year. These results have also guided, instruction planning and intervention to address language skills appropriately. The case was different for other grades, like in 1st grade where there was a clear observation from data (DIBELS and TRC) that the difficulties of students are more specific in comprehension and vocabulary. In fact one of the teachers said “It’s like they got all the rules but the connected text has no meaning— they have no prior knowledge... We need to work on building background knowledge through vocabulary- we need to emphasize this in CORE”
Phase 4– This step is happening the week of October 18, 2010 and will engage teachers in deciding what assessment system they will use and what cut scores or tiering system they will use. In other words, teachers feel they would like to use DIBELS but also TRC before making a decision on who needs tiered intervention and in what kind of combination: phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. The administration in the school is mobilizing resources, personnel and other, to maximize support as the teachers address each student’s need.
Phase 5– This step will help the school organize common planning time by grade level to develop data-driven problem solving protocols to plan for students needing tier 2 and tier 3 interventions and support. Teachers will assist in developing a list of students that need tier 2 and tier 3 intervention and will create a 4-6 week cycle of progress monitoring with key details on language of instruction, intervention, service delivery, integrity/fidelity check and assessment. Lastly, teachers will begin capturing the fidelity of the CORE and coordinating and collaborating while beginning the implementation of tiered interventions in the next few weeks.
Phase 6– This step will develop appropriate research-based interventions and professional development for teachers to begin implementation of tiered instruction in small groups for students needing tier 2 interventions and one-to-one for students needing tiered 3 interventions.
Response from Thomas P. Komp: If you are fortunate enough to have an intervention block within your master schedule, then you also have the opportunity to service all students using this RTI model. Here is an example of how we use the intervention block for all students.
During our Intervention Block (30 minutes 5x per week, per grade level) our struggling students are taken out of each classroom by our Reading Specialists and regrouped to meet their educational needs. Our Strategic and On-Track students remain with their classroom teacher. The Strategic students, those who are not quite in need of intervention, are provided re-teaching opportunities based on the Core program. The On-Track students, those who are doing well academically, are provided extension opportunities and enrichment.
In the past we have accomplished this re-teaching/enrichment model for Strategic/On-Track students different ways:
Because we have common intervention time for the grade level, we have the opportunity to switch students to different classrooms with each classroom teacher providing either the re-teaching or the extension activities. We utilize the expertise of our classroom teachers to form these groups.
If you choose to keep all students within their own classroom during this time period, an alternating model also works. For example, some years we have used a 3/2 model. 3X a week the strategic students will receive direct re-teaching by the classroom teacher while the On-Track student are doing independent enrichment activities. The other 2X a week the On-Track students receive direct enrichment instruction while the Strategic students utilize independent activities/practice.
Response from Sheldon Horowitz, Ed.D.: RTI is not just about looking for kids who are struggling. RTI is about ALL kids and helping educators understand and address their learning and behavioral needs in an effective, time sensitive and standards-appropriate manner. An initial screening could reveal to a classroom teacher that a group of students was ready to be accelerated in the presentation of academic content and/or it was appropriate to offer enrichment opportunities that would enable them to deepen proficiencies and expand skills and content knowledge. This is RTI at its best! The same goes for students who were at expected entry levels of content mastery and those for whom prior skill development and ‘readiness’ might pose obstacles to instruction and learning.
...Should Student Support/Child Study teams be suspended entirely in light of this new model or is there an effective way to integrate the two?
Response from Matthew Burns, Ph.D.: This is a great question. Student Support Teams (SST) and Child Study Teams (CST) are commonly used in schools today. They both were developed from the problem-solving team (PST) framework in which educational professionals conduct in-depth problem analysis for a student’s difficulty and develop individualized interventions. However, very few SST/CSTs actually function as a PST. Most do not solve problems. Most SST/CSTs function more like a pre-referral team than a PST. Here are a few behaviors that indicate your team is a pre-referral team rather than a PST: if you require 30 minutes per student, but 25 of those minutes are spent discussing the problem and 5 are spent brainstorming solutions, if the referring teacher spends the entire time making his or her case that the student should be "tested," or if the primary question that the team answers is whether or not the student should be referred for a special education eligibility evaluation rather than how to help the student. If the SST/CST functions as a pre-referral team, then my experience suggests that you fold the team, wait a short period of time, and reconvene a PST with new forms and additional training. I have a chapter in Best Practices for School Psychology [(5th Edition.), Eds. Thomas, A. & Grimes, J.] that could be used for study groups on the issue. If the SST/CST does function as a PST, then by all means fold the paperwork etc. into the RTI model by convening about students for whom the Tier 2 intervention was not successful. Thus, PSTs should help develop the Tier 3 interventions and decisions about referring students to the PST should be made with Tier 2 progress monitoring data.
There is one more factor to consider. Some SST/CSTs are actually pre-referral teams by design. In other words, it could be that the designated function of the SST/CST is to determine if a student should be evaluated for special education eligibility. This team could also play a role in the RTI framework. Students for whom a Tier 3 intervention was not successful, or for whom the intervention was successful but too intense to be delivered without the support of special education, could be referred by the grade-level team to the SST/CST and that group could decide if and what additional data are needed. In this case, then integrating the SST/CST model and paperwork would be fairly straightforward, except you likely would have to add an "If" option to the types of data needed. However, a PST is still needed within Tier 3 to develop interventions and the progress monitoring plan.
Response from George Noell, Ph.D.: Develop a plan to directly assess implementation. Carry out that plan with observations or physical products (e.g., self-monitoring cards, fact practice sheets, etc.) and share the objective data with the provider. Discuss problems and provide feedback. Until implementation is at a high level there is no purpose in proceeding. Without solid implementation, RTI is a process lacking in substance.
For a model of how to measure implementation and provide feedback you might consult:
Noell, G. H., Witt, J. C., Slider, N. J., Connell, J. E., Gatti, S. L., Williams, K. L., Koenig, J. L., Resetar, J. L., & Duhon, G. J. (2005). Treatment implementation following behavioral consultation in schools: A comparison of three follow-up strategies. School Psychology Review, 34, 87-106.
For some thoughts on the fundamental ethical and moral role of plan implementation to RTI you might look at:
Noell, G. H., & Gansle, K. A. (2006). Assuring the form has substance: Treatment plan implementation as the foundation of assessing response to intervention. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 32, 32-39.
...team developed novel study activities for these groups. We have been receiving some push back from students, parents and teachers as to why the students have to do the activities and why should they do them if it doesn't count for a grade. We would like the grade level teams to take ownership of the types of activities the enrichment groups do during this time. We want the students and teachers to find the activities interesting and applicable to real world situations. Can you provide some suggestions as to what types of activities school provide for the enrichment students? Also, if there is information as to whether these activities should be counted for a grade.
Response from Susan K. Johnsen, Ph.D., Baylor University: The teachers in your school appear to be attempting to think of ways of providing for individual differences in reading. However, I can understand why they are receiving push back from students, parents, and teachers. They perceive the “enrichment groups” as additional work and not related to students’ interests or even grades.
I would suggest that the grade level teams consider differentiating the core content (Tier I activities) for their students during the normal English language arts periods and then use the enrichment times for extensions of interest-related projects. To accomplish this task, teachers may need some professional development in how to identify students’ interests, find books that will challenge students’ current reading levels, integrate technology into classroom reading activities, and provide opportunities for creativity.
For example, students that have already mastered basic skills in spelling or writing might substitute books of interest to them that offer depth and complexity. These books could relate to similar themes as books being read by other students in the class who are below grade level to facilitate the opportunity for whole-class discussion of similar themes across books.
They might use technology to access Web sites of authors, to read challenging books online, and to interact with advanced readers from other schools using literature circle discussion strategies.
Individual students or students with similar knowledge and interests might work together in pairs or in small groups and be engaged in critical reading and analysis, advanced vocabulary development, and comparison of themes across fiction and nonfiction.
Independent studies of sufficient depth and challenge might also be used to encourage students to work in areas of personal interest and challenge.
They might complete different creative products and participate in alternative writing assignments. Technology might be used to create concept maps, technological products, stories and even books.
The enrichment time might then be used as extensions of the core content—particularly as students find their interests and are eager to develop more complex products.
Grades should be used to determine whether or not the students have met the standards for their grade level. Grades should not be used to evaluate above-level content or students’ interests. Using grades in this way can discourage students from pursuing more complex work or work related to interests.
...for those who are not proficient or learning at the desired rate. While Talented and Gifted (TAG) kids can also benefit from challenge/enrichment interventions, 80% of the students in my classroom really don't NEED any interventions. What are your thoughts on this specific subject?
Response from Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: You are correct that 30 minutes of “RtI” is not the optimal way to approach the needs of students, be the needs for more support to reach learning goals, or for more enrichment to extend learning goals. RtI, or Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), should be systemic approaches to the school’s ability to respond to the dynamic strengths and needs of students. The best models are in operation through-out the school day, across all the school’s services, and take place in all school settings as needed. This may sound impossible, but what it really means is that RtI is a mindset about how we work with students, not just a way of organizing services. RtI is not a “30 minute a day fix”; it is a process of continuously monitoring, with data, how students are progressing so that we, as a team, can work together to make school optimal.
Having said all of that, let’s also get real! A school can choose to implement some Tier 2 and 3 interventions for targeted groups of learners during a specific period of the day, which may be a “30 minute Intervention Block.” During that time the school would focus on matching supports and enhancements with specific student strengths and needs. The benefits of setting a time of day for this include: (1) faculty and staff can be assigned to work in their area of strengths (e.g., some may offer targeted support for reading while others may offer enrichment for students with an interest and strength in history); (2) Resources can be combined for greater efficiency (e.g. books and materials can be assigned to the appropriate groups of students for intervention); and (3) The size of the student group can vary depending on the instructional needs of the students. To do this well, student groups must be formed based on data showing strengths, needs, and interests; teachers must collaborate on designing and delivering the interventions (both supports and enhancements); and the process must be both flexible and dynamic. Flexible in that specific interventions will change as the strengths and needs of the students change. Dynamic in that supports and enhancements are driven by data.
The 80% of students who do not “need” intervention could always use some extra enrichment, interest-based projects, time to read books of choice, or opportunities to explore career seminars, etc.
So, if we are looking at high-quality teaching and learning with differentiated instruction as a Tier 1 foundation, then we can look at a dynamic and flexible delivery of Tier 2 and 3 supports and enhancements that include – but are not limited to – a 30 minute a day period where teachers and students are re-grouped around strengths and needs. To keep this working the “interventions” would need to be reassessed periodically (maybe every 3 weeks) and the student assignments to interventions would need to be very dynamic (changing as their strengths, needs, and interests change). Without these features, a “30 minute a day fix” could easily become static. It could also become an excuse for not addressing strengths and needs throughout the school day, “Oh, we take care of that from 10:30-11:00!”
Bottom-line: it is not the 30 minutes at day that is the problem, it is how they will be used and what will be happen the rest of the day!
... Reading Recovery would be considered a Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention for first grade students. There are some that say it should be a Tier 2 intervention because children that are chosen may not necessarily have gotten any other interventions first. In other words these children have gone from the core Curriculum (Tier 1) and been chosen using the specific assessment data associated with Reading Recovery. Others say that since it is the most intense Reading intervention we have for a child - they have the child 1 on 1 for a set amount of time daily - and the child is progressed monitored often throughout the time the child is in the program, that Reading Recovery should be considered a Tier 3 intervention. What do you think?
Response from Carol Connor, Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, Florida State University:
Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba and I have just completed a randomized control study that shows that we get stronger student outcomes when children are assigned immediately to the tiered intervention that their scores would suggest is appropriate — that is, children with the greatest difficulties go immediately to Tier 3 and we don't waste time with Tier 2 — compared to traditional RTI. Because of its intensity, I would consider Reading Recovery a Tier 3 and would not worry whether children had received Tier 2 or not — if Reading Recovery is what they need, then I would enroll them.
... How many days a week should students attend an RTI lesson? Is there a “law” stating that they need to attend a 30 minute lesson 5 days a week? 30 minutes is a lifetime for a kindergartener! Kindergarten is so different from 1st through 5th grade.
Response to Intervention (RTI) was introduced as an IDEA-approved process for identification of specific learning disabilities (IDEA, 2004). Key principles of RTI include: (a) recognizing children’s strengths and needs through systematic screening and frequent progress monitoring; (b) using multiple tiers of research-based interventions; and (c) problem-solving with parents and educators to aid in decision-making (Horowitz, 2006). While more commonly known as a tool to prevent the over-identification of minorities and ELLs in special education during later years of formal schooling, NAEYC and the National Center for Learning Disabilities endorse RTI for preschoolers (Recognition & Response, n.d.).
Three factors often analyzed in intervention research are intensity, duration, and frequency (Jimerson, Burns & VanDerHeyden, 2007). Based on your question, it seems you are struggling with duration, or how long an individual lesson should last, and frequency, or how often students should receive the intervention. Unfortunately, I have not found any hard rules on length of intervention lesson plans or frequency of interventions, though there are standard protocol intervention programs that prescribe both frequency and duration for teachers. Examples are Success for All or Ladders to Literacy. Academic intervention research I have read typically does implement a frequency of at least 3 lessons or sessions per week.
You are right that teachers planning individual lessons within an RTI model should take into account younger children's ability or lack of ability to attend to instruction for long periods of time. When thinking about the length of any individual core or supplemental lesson plan, a variety of factors should be considered. First, teachers should ensure the lesson objectives are tied to the identified needs of the students. Next, all learning activities within that lesson should tie directly back to the learning objectives. Teachers should also be sure to include targeted opportunities to assess student's understanding throughout the lesson, and plans should be flexible enough to adequately respond to any misunderstandings.
Children differ on a variety of characteristics such as culture, ethnicity, language background, etc. These differences may impact their readiness levels, interests and preferred learning modalities. Another important consideration then, especially for a lesson plan that might last 30 minutes, is to address diverse learning preferences by incorporating a mixture of visual, audio, and kinesthetic learning opportunities. Differentiating based on modalities asks teachers to understand their students’ learning preferences. There are three overarching learning modalities, or ways we can process information – visual (sight), auditory (sound) and kinesthetic (movement).
As much as possible, teachers should try to address learning objectives through each of the three major learning modalities to ensure children have multiple opportunities to learn and demonstrate their learning (Tomlinson, 2001). In this way, teachers 'break up' the lesson into manageable chunks, and the natural transitions that occur between activities within a lesson offer the opportunity to reengage learners and focus their attention back to the learning objectives.
Finally, a key part of the word activities is 'active' - children should have lots of opportunities during a lesson to be active! A 30-minute lesson where the student has to sit and listen to a teacher talk with limited opportunities to actively engage in learning would be a lifetime for the kindergartner, or for the grown-up responding to this question (smile)!
Here are a few examples of how a teacher might include active learning that addresses the three learning styles in a developmentally appropriate 30-minute vocabulary intervention lesson:
teach students sign language to accompany vocabulary (primarily visual if receptive; primarily kinesthetic if expressive); or
use pictures or photographs to illustrate concepts of words; or
use class-sized graphic organizer to classify or compare words
work with students to create a story, song or rhyme integrating vocabulary (can include visual if you transcribe and/or use pictorial supports for key words and review writing or pictures as part of instruction)
Listen to existing story or song using vocabulary
have students practice vocabulary using a movement game like Vocabulary Chairs or Vocabulary Hopscotch (also visual); or
have students create representations of vocabulary via drawings or 3-dimensional objects.
In summary, children who need additional, targeted support to master skills or concepts likely do need multiple exposures to the content each week (frequency). Though individual sessions may vary in length (duration), all lessons should include principles of high quality lesson plans. Finally, lessons should incorporate multiple modalities to ensure students are engaged and learning. Have fun teaching and your students will be much more likely to enjoy learning!
... of learning be addressed within the two tiers between the 2 teachers? Should the Tier 2 interventions continue to be monitored, to determine if the interventions being executed in Tier 2 work? I am torn at the thought of having too much monitoring and not enough teaching. Please share what it should look like for Tier 3 students while they are in the classroom receiving Tier 2 interventions while also being pulled out for their Tier 3 interventions.
Response by Lauren Campsen, Prinicipal, Ocean View Elementary School: Each tier of intervention is always in addition to the lower tiers. Current research is very consistent in finding that what is most effective for lower performing students is more time in high quality direct teacher instruction. Substituting one instructional lesson for another lesson does not provide more time. If students are not proficient after receiving high quality research based differentiated instruction in the core Tier 1 classroom, we must provide an additional Tier 2 second dose of direct teacher instruction in a small group setting. If progress monitoring demonstrates that a student is still not proficient, then a Tier 3 third dose of more intensive one on one instruction is added at least three times a week so that the student is receiving three reading (or math) lessons each day. Progress monitoring is critical at all three tiers to identify students who are not responding to the instruction or interventions and may need to be referred for possible special needs. In addition, we must use our progress monitoring to determine the effectiveness of our intervention program and the instructional strategies we select to implement during this direct instruction..
Response by Lauren Campsen, Principal, Ocean View Elementary School: You are absolutely correct. Reading Specialists are the best people to deliver reading intervention. However, ever increasing budget cuts are forcing school districts to make tough decisions about how to prioritize spending. Most districts are opting to protect core (Tier 1) classroom instruction and cut support positions, even critical academic support positions like reading specials. When these cuts come, we must begin to think outside the box to develop new intervention models. In your case, I would make the following recommendation. Expand the role of your remaining reading specialists to 1) provide training for classroom teachers in research based instructional strategies and differentiation to strengthen core instruction so that less students are in need of intensive support, 2) provide training to other staff members (administrators, media specialists, paraprofessionals, etc.) and even volunteers in some basic remediation strategies that they can use to support students who are reading moderately below grade, and 3) use their own instructional time to deliver intervention lessons the students who have the most critical needs. No matter how great the cuts, student needs must still be met. Everyone in the schoolhouse needs to take responsibility to be part of the solution. Check out my blog posting, Saving RTI from the Budget Ax, which offers more detailed suggestions on dealing with funding cuts.
...is it ok to dismiss them from RTI services as long as we continue to Progress Monitor them for 2-3 more weeks?
Response from Dawn Miller, Ph.D., Innovate Projects Facilitator, Shawnee Mission Public Schools:
This is an important question and one that the Leadership Team should establish as part of their data decision rules. I'd like to make sure my response is contextualized properly. To me, RTI is a set of practices within a school improvement framework that is designed to meet each learners needs. This means that ALL students in the school are served within the RTI framework. That said, a student doesn't "exit RTI services," but rather may have their support change in response to their performance in a particular area. That change may represent a change in who serves them, the amount of time or frequency in support, the area of focus, or the materials being used to meet the need. In my district, the data decision rules are similar to what you shared – we look at the last 3-4 consecutive data points. The rules, however, are applied in a problem-solving routine. If the data points are consistently above the aimline and in an area that indicates low risk, then the questions on the table include:
How has the student been performing during intervention time? Discuss within intervention progress monitoring data.
How has the student been performing during core reading time? Discuss differentiation during core.
Are the data indicating that a change is warranted? If performance is consistently above, consider reducing or discontinuing current intervention and having the student supported during differentiated workshop. If performance is consistently below, consider the intervention match with needs, time, frequency, or need to customize within the intervention and differentiate core.
Response from Linda Mason, Associate Professor of Education, The Pennsylvania State University:
For a class of struggling writers, I would first recommend situating instruction within an evidenced-base approach, for example, Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) instruction. SRSD includes teaching within six instructional stages for strategy acquisition (Develop prior knowledge, Discuss it, Memorize it, Model it, Guided Practice, and Independent Practice) and four self-regulation procedures (Goal setting, Self-instructions, Self-monitoring, and Self-reinforcement). For third grade struggling writers, teaching a simple planning strategy such as the seven-part story strategy W-W-W, What=2, How=2 (Who, When, Where, What does the main character do or want to do? What happens next? How does the story end? How do the characters feel?), is best. Self-Regulated Strategy Development 5-Day Lesson Sequence (PDF) provides an example of a five-day, 45 minutes-a-day, SRSD lesson sequence for teaching the W-W-W story planning strategy. It is important to note that SRSD is designed to be recursive rather than linear. In other words, strategy acquisition and self-regulation instruction are repeated and revisited as needed to support students’ learning.
The initial 5-day SRSD lesson sequence often requires a varying amount of teacher support based on individual students’ needs. When teaching strategies and self-regulation to struggling learners, for example, repeated guided practice may be required. Once students have learned to self-regulate the writing process, instruction can be expanded to include different writing tasks (e.g., write a story in a letter to a friend) and genres (e.g., TREE - Topic sentence, Reasons: 3 or more, Explanations, Ending - for writing an opinion paper), and can focus on the quality of the students’ writing by including revision strategies (e.g., COPS – Capitalization, Organization, Punctuation, Spelling).
...that meet their proficiency level but do not focus on grade level standards? Would it be better to place these students in the grade level math course with some kind of additional support along with intervention time? We are in our second year of utilizing CMP with grade level students and Transmath with struggling students at the 40th percentile and below. Our local data did not show the Transmath students were able to meet proficiency. Is there research to suggest we have a system problem?
These are excellent questions and ones that many schools are wrestling with as they try to implement multi-tiered mathematics instruction.
In response to your first question, Is there research to support placing students in core math programs that meet their proficiency level but do not focus on grade level standards?, I can say that I am not aware of any research that supports the efficacy of using an “alternative” core mathematics curriculum that does not address grade level benchmarks for underperforming students as a replacement for a core mathematics curriculum that does, especially at Tier 1. The same is true for the practice of bypassing Tier 1 instruction (that uses the identified core mathematics curriculum that appropriately addresses grade level benchmarks) and relegating students who are underperforming to a Tier 2 only context where they receive instruction using an alternative mathematics curriculum that does not address the same grade level mathematics benchmarks only.
I am aware that these practices seem to be occurring with greater frequency. In either case, such practices are clearly inconsistent with the principles, intent, and spirit of RTI/multi-tiered systems of instruction. I am concerned that mathematics RTI is being implemented inappropriately in too many instances. In many ways math RTI does not seem to be much different compared to the mathematics instructional delivery systems we’ve had in the past; systems where students were tracked, segregated into manageable compartments, and progressively “taught” that they are not capable of achieving success in mathematics. Mathematics is particularly susceptible to this given the lack of training most educators, including administrators and teachers, have in one or more of the following: the content/processes of mathematics, effective mathematics pedagogy, and effective mathematics instruction for struggling learners. Very few mathematics curricula or programs even have enough of an evidence base to project their potential for effectiveness for students generally, much less for struggling learners who have many differentiated mathematical learning needs.
Your second question, Would it be better to place these students in the grade level math course with some kind of additional support along with intervention time?, is central to issues with the kind of practices that you described in your first question. The short answer is yes. The research that is out there on mathematics RTI clearly shows that providing core mathematics instruction PLUS supplemental small group/individual instruction that is more explicit in nature results in gains for students. Unfortunately, the gains made do not seem to catch these students up to their peers who are meeting progress benchmarks. This is where I personally believe that the problem-solving aspect to RTI needs to be much better articulated. Policies that rely on any one mathematics curriculum or program to take care of everything are naïve at best and potentially damaging to students who struggle with learning mathematics. Decision making that is informed by multiple factors related to the learning of mathematics must be better appreciated and used, including whether or not the most important (foundational) concepts are emphasized in assessments and instruction, the extent to which formal and informal diagnostic assessments actually get at what students know and understand, what they don’t know and understand and why this might be the case, how student specific and curricula characteristics might be creating barriers for students, and the extent to which research-supported instructional practices (i.e., NOT texts/programs) have been/are actually being used with students, etc. When such data is used judiciously, then we can pinpoint what needs to be emphasized in terms of mathematics content/process and what instructional practices are most likely to produce gains.
To your last question, Is there research to suggest we have a system problem?, I guess you probably already know my answer. I wouldn’t say there is any blame to lay here or there. I truly believe that this is an area where the research base is somewhat limited and very few folks have ever been exposed to what is really known, what is really not known, and how to effectively use what is known to do the best we can for students who struggle to learn mathematics. To this end, I would certainly suggest that your school critically evaluate the current processes and practices that you have in place, consider whether or not they are resulting in the vast majority of students making grade level progress, and revise what is being done based on what you are learning.
Response by Joy Zabala, Ed.D , Director of Technical Assistance, CAST:
There is a great deal of information and many, many, resources for learning about how technology, when combined with effective pedagogy and problem-solving, can be used effectively for students with a wide range of learning weaknesses. One important thing to keep in mind is that technology itself is rarely an adequate solution. Only when the technology is carefully matched to the specific strengths and weaknesses of the student, and to the goals of learning, can good choices be made.
In general there are two broad approaches for using technology successfully. The first approach focuses on how to use technology to help individual students - what is usually called assistive technology. For that approach to be successful requires careful attention to what the individual's strengths and weaknesses are, what tasks they are needing to do, etc. Usually it is best to engage a specialist in assistive technology that can do a careful analysis that addresses specific functional needs (Reading? Writing? Communication? Organization?, etc.) and the specific tasks or barriers a student faces. One source of help can be found at the QIAT website where there is a link to a wonderfully informative and interactive learning community whose members discuss virtually every way that technology might be used to support learners. There is a tab for "mailing list" that provides a link to join the list and communicate with people all around the nation about the use of technology to support the full range of human function that may be of concern.
The second approach focuses on the problem differently. That approach - called universal design for learning – focuses instead on using technology as a tool to reduce unacceptable barriers to learning in the curriculum or learning environment. The central idea – complementary to assistive technology – is to ensure that schools have better curriculum and tools so that all students, including those with learning disabilities, have fewer impediments to learning, and more chances for success. You can find more about that approach at www.cast.orgor at www.udlcenter.org.
Together these two approaches provide important ways for students with a wide range of abilities and disabilities to get the education they need.
The environment you have described in your question is typical in many schools. Gearing up for RtI takes a lot of work. Once the RtI framework is started in a school, it is hard to get all the components required for full implementation in place. In the case of your school, a little tweaking will go a long way. While a template for an RtI model will be helpful, the critical decisions you are looking for are specific to your school, your assessments, your interventions, your students and your teachers. There are two critical questions that you need to answer:
For your norm referenced and valid screening, progress monitoring, and diagnostic assessments, have cut scores been established by the test authors?
When considering intensity and duration, review current progress monitoring data at your school to determine how and when current decisions about students are being made. From that data, see if you can establish general decision patterns for screening data and for progress monitoring data for Tiers 2 and 3 that your school is currently demonstrating. From that data, formalize the process as a school to be used at your collaborative team meetings.
There are two resources that will help you in your school discussions:
Response from Karen Wixson, Ph.D.: The general answer to this question is "yes"—Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions should be aligned with the core curriculum. However, this also assumes that the core curriculum covers the areas needed by the students receiving Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions. It is conceivable that there might be a need for differences between Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions and the core curriculum. For example, a core curriculum that is narrowly focused on foundational skills might not address all of the areas in which struggling students may need work if they are to make good progress, which would call for Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions that go beyond the core curriculum. Conversely, Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions may need to address foundational skills that are no longer part of the core curriculum at more advanced age/grade levels. In general, however, a good rule of thumb is that Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions should not involve terminology, content, skills, strategies, tasks, materials, etc. that are inconsistent with those of the core curriculum. This is likely both to promote learning and to help avoid confusion.
Response from Joe Torgesen, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Education, Florida State University, and Director Emeritus of the Florida Center for Reading Research: There are at least two ways to think about establishing that a program is research based.
The most common way is to ask whether the basic instructional content, sequences, and methods in a program are consistent with research in the area. For example, research indicates that intervention programs for early reading instruction achieve better results if they guide instruction that is explicit and systematic. These qualities of instruction should apply to all the major skills that are required to become a good reader, such as word analysis and decoding strategies, fluency building, vocabulary acquisition, and comprehension strategies. It is also helpful, of course, if the program supports engaging instructional practices and contains or refers to interesting reading materials and activities. Program providers often claim that their programs are research based by showing examples from their programs that are consistent with these general principles. This is one strategy that was used by the Florida Center for Reading Research in producing evaluations of many different reading programs for use by schools in Florida (see section on FCRR reports).
The second and potentially more rigorous way to establish whether a program is research based is to study empirical research that has examined reading outcomes with children who are taught by teachers using the program as a guide for their instruction. I say that this is a “potentially” more rigorous method because there are many, many ways for this method to produce misleading results if the research is not designed properly. It is quite a challenging and expensive endeavor to evaluate the efficacy of programs using appropriate experimental designs, valid measures, and realistic instructional conditions.
Currently, the most scientifically defensible approach to this kind of evaluation is being promoted and used by the “What Works Clearinghouse,” which is supported by the Institute for Education Sciences of the U.S Department of Education. Although the reports issued by this agency do not address the extent to which the instructional content and methods in a given program embody research based principles, they do an excellent job of evaluating the extent to which the program has been shown to be effective in scientifically valid research. Their website also contains extensive discussion of the methods used to determine whether a program actually has acceptable support from research.
Response from Sharon Vaughn, Ph.D.: This is an excellent question. I would say that in special education, an instructional practice or strategy could claim that it was "research-based" if it had one or more experimental studies, two or more quasi-experimental studies of high rigor, or multiple single-subject studies addressing the population (or a similar population) to whom you were going to apply the strategy/practice. Of course, the findings from these studies would have to indicate that the overall impact from the strategy/practice was positive for the target population. Nevertheless, not all researchers in this field would agree on this answer and my response may differ from the answer you might receive from the “What Works Clearinghouse” or other research groups.
Response from Amanda VanDerHeyden, Ph.D.: The feature that distinguishes one tier of intervention from another is intensity. Tier 1 intervention is typical instruction to which all students in the class are exposed (often called universal or core instruction) and is the least intensive. Tier 2 is for children who do not respond successfully to Tier 1 intervention and is more intensive than Tier 1 intervention. Tier 3 is the most intense level of intervention and is for the small number of children who do not respond successfully to intervention at Tiers 1 and 2.
Some features of intervention that can be altered to increase intervention intensity include duration of the intervention, frequency of the intervention, frequency of progress monitoring during intervention, scope of skills addressed during intervention, format of intervention (e.g., small-group versus individual), and use of standard protocol versus individualized functional assessment. Presumably decreasing the student to teacher ratio will increase intensity because it can permit more opportunities for the student to respond and practice the skill, more opportunities for the student to receive individualized feedback about the accuracy of his/her responses, and more individualized adjustment of the instructor’s response tailored to the student’s need (e.g., teacher can briefly reduce task difficulty, re-train a prerequisite skill, provide brief instruction on a new skill, change to fluency-building practice, add incentives, etc based on student performance). Importantly, with intervention implementation, the devil is in the details as they say and the degree to which a lower student to teacher ratio actually or functionally increases intervention intensity depends upon the degree to which the lower student to teacher ratio permits more individualized and higher quality instruction than would be possible in working with a small group of students. Hence, implementers should consider that it is possible to reduce student to teacher ratio and not increase intensity, just as it is possible to increase the duration of intervention and not really increase the intensity of intervention. If intensity is defined as the power or force with which a process operates as estimated by the results that are obtained, then intensity of intervention is evaluated by its capacity to improve learning. More intense interventions are those interventions that have greater capacity to improve learning. While features like student to teacher ratio and duration of intervention are signals that the intervention might be more intensive, it’s really the degree to which these conditions permit more effective, more individualized, and more frequent instructional interactions to occur that define intensity. Implementers should plan for monitoring intervention intensity via use of intervention protocols, frequent student progress monitoring, and direct intervention integrity checks.
Response from Carolyn Denton, Ph.D.: The word "curriculum" is used to mean "published program" or "a list of objectives that should be addressed in a given subject/grade level." Both of these are very important in RTI models, both at Tier 1 (classroom instruction) and for supplemental intervention. It's important that instruction is directed at teaching appropriate objectives (content, strategies, and skills). Teachers can address their states' established objectives for each subject area and grade level, although students performing below grade level in reading need instruction designed to address their needs. If they have "holes in their foundational learning" (unmastered skills or ineffective strategies that are holding back their progress), teachers should use assessments to find out what the students need to learn — and teach it, moving them forward as quickly as possible. It's also critical that teachers are provided with high-quality published programs, and I'll focus my remarks on that meaning of "curriculum." Since my area of research and expertise is reading, I'll address it in my response. And, since much has been written about the adoption of research-based core reading programs at Tier 1, I'll discuss Tier 2 and 3 intervention programs.
There is a large amount of converging research evidence that students who struggle to learn to read benefit from a curriculum (program) that (a) is organized in a systematic way, with easier skills taught before harder ones, necessary subskills building in a logical sequence (as a simple example, teaching the sounds of b and r before introducing the br- blend and asking students to sound out the word "brand," and confusing elements separated (e.g., teaching b and d several weeks apart); (b) includes directions to the teacher to deliver explicit instruction, directly teaching students what they need to learn; (c) provides many opportunities for students to practice skills and strategies with clear positive and corrective feedback, scaffolding and support, as well as independently (with cumulative practice built in over time); and (d) provides for ample practice applying skills with teacher support and feedback in connected text at an appropriate level of difficulty. Effective reading intervention programs don't all look alike. Some are scripted and highly prescriptive, and some are not. Some use decodable text and some don't. Teachers should not have to put all this together on their own! They should be provided with a program that has these characteristics. They will probably need to adapt instruction to meet individual students' needs, but it's not a teacher's job to develop the curriculum from scratch.
Although just about every program on the market these days says that it is "research based," it is important for educators to actually look beyond the advertisements when adopting an intervention program and ask to see the studies that show evidence of effectiveness for students with reading difficulties. Ask for more than "testimonials" that say, "We used this program and our kids did great." Look for research that compared student outcomes using the program with outcomes from another approach. There are also websites that can help educators make their way beyond sales pitches to find curricula that really are supported by research evidence, such as the one maintained by the Florida Center on Reading Research (among others).
This quote from Lyon (2006) says it well, "If you find a program isn't doing well, that is to be expected if teachers aren't implementing the program with fidelity." Likewise, you can have the most well prepared teacher, but if the program is ineffective, kids will not learn. One can also have a great teacher and a great program but if the building level leadership is poor and the teachers are not provided enough time to teach and to collaborate with one another, then kids will not learn. It is complex, but so is life. The point is, when all elements are in place, students learn - even those from the direst circumstances.
(Retrieved on July 21, 2008 from http://www.therant.us/staff/nsalvato/2006/01252006.htm)
Response from Amanda VanDerHeyden, Ph.D.: Much of the writing and research on RTI has occurred in the area of reading, but RTI is not limited to reading. Rather, it is a science of decision making that can be applied to a variety of "problem behaviors." Much of the research that has come to be associated with RTI comes from work in curriculum-based assessment and measurement and the problem-solving model as first described by Deno (1985). Under that model, Deno described the potential for student academic performance data collected at baseline and at routine intervals to inform problem definition, solution development, and solution evaluation. Hence, some writers have described RTI as the application of the scientific method whereby hypotheses are developed about what is causing deficient academic performance and the hypothesis is tested via an intervention trial. If the intervention successfully changed the skill, then the hypothesis was confirmed; If not, the hypothesis was disconfirmed and a new hypothesis was developed. RTI has become a vehicle for system reform because it provides a database for making relative judgments (e.g., who needs help the most and how much help do they need) and distributing instructional resources to promote the greatest good for the greatest number of students. RTI, properly understood and used, is focused on improving student learning.
In mathematics, a reform process similar to that that occurred in reading in the 1990's appears to be underway. Whereas math has been under-researched relative to reading, research findings are available to guide RTI application in mathematics. Specifically, research is available to guide the selection of adequate screening measures, selection of adequate progress monitoring measures, development of decision criteria, and the development of intervention protocols appropriate for use at all tiers of instruction. For more information, read RTI and Math Instruction.
Response from Dawn Miller, Ph.D.: I think the critical elements to tend to in a tiered system include:
Students are provided targeted instruction to specific areas of need,
The targeted instruction is supplemental to a comprehensive reading program, and
Increased time and intensity is built in to the schedule for students demonstrating need for this extension
With these critical elements in mind, how schools design their systems and utilize their resources varies by building and preferences. The key factor is the number of students demonstrating the need for additional intervention, the resulting areas needing support, and the understanding of instructional support needed. In my district, for example, we have buildings that utilize various resources during a 30 minute reading intervention time where students may switch classes and interventionists based on their area of need. Other buildings, however, have the classroom teachers carry out interventions within their classrooms. In this case, if a teacher identifies one group of students showing the need for additional targeted practice and one group showing the need for direct re-teaching, he or she may feel that this could be arranged in the classroom during intervention time. If, however, there are multiple groups showing the need for teacher-led instruction, a cross-grade approach would be warranted. For students demonstrating the need for a more intensive intervention approach, the master schedule has allocated an additional 30 minutes of reading intervention, which results in a total of 90 min. of core reading + 60 min. of intervention.
...Science, that pull out groups are not given enough time.
Response from Lori Smith, Principal, Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School, Colorado Springs, CO: When evaluating a schedule for intervention, it must fit the goal of the intervention.
For example, in our building, we have 44 minute periods for all classes whether they are intervention or regular classes. Therefore, it is important to determine if the goal of the intervention is remediation of science concepts taught in class (a double-dip approach), in which case I believe 90 additional minutes is too much, or if the goal is to teach perhaps specific vocabulary related to science, which can be done in shorter more consistent intervals within 55 minutes. Either way, I think teachers and interventionists can work around time constraints by using elective times, PE, or other non-academic time. It's most important to have the buy-in of the parents to help support creative scheduling. However, that support cannot come without educating parents on the whys of the intervention goals for the student and sharing of regular progress monitoring data with the parents. I think you can make intervention time work in just about any setting, but you have to have parent support if it means giving up an elective or exploratory time. At our school, we don't really give parents a choice about giving up elective time, we simply send information home in a letter to parents stating the intervention their student will receive, its duration, and the rationale. If for some reason they refuse, that is a parent choice and we honor it. So, in essence, we tell the parents "the plan" and very few, when they read the rationale and goals for their student, refuse to participate. We also make it a point not to intervene with kids so much that they can't take an elective; it's more of an incentive plan or program...you will be in this intervention until you show adequate progress (usually a semester) and if you succeed, you get to take an elective in the spring. This approach seems to work well with our kids and parents.
Lastly, think outside the box; time constraints should not drive intervention—intervention purpose should drive schedule and time!
...all I do is meet with individual or small groups all day. And, we will be beginning Math interventions as well. I have about 4 or 5 students in need of math interventions. Feeling overwhelmed. Need help. Advice? Response from Ed Shapiro, Ph.D.: I don’t think you have a complete understanding about your school’s RTI model of implementation. Tier 1 involves core instruction and would be the instruction delivered to all students. Therefore, I am very unclear what you mean by “6 students in need of RTI Tier 1 interventions”. Your further statement about not getting to reading groups is also confusing. These reading groups probably refers to a structure your school has in place for Tier 1 instruction, most likely some kind of guided reading process.
My overall advice is for you to step back from what you are doing and seek leadership in your school to better define, understand, and construct an effective RTI process. It is important to remember that RTI is NOT an intervention, it is NOT a specific instructional program, and it is NOT delivering small group instruction. It is a methodology for constructing the delivery of educational services to all children. Until that process is clearly defined and understood in this case, I am afraid it would be difficult to advise you how to proceed.
...researched-based materials for Tier 2 and 3 but are confused on what the requirements for evidence based materials for Tier 1 entails.
Response from Stephanie Al Otaiba, Ph.D, Associate Professor or Special Education, Florida Center for Reading Research: It is vital, since Tier 1 is the foundation for all literacy instruction, that Tier 1 be evidence-based. A strong core should support not only code-focused skills like phonics, phonological awareness, and phonemic awareness in an explicit and systematic instructional routine, but also support language and comprehension (including writing). Teachers teach, curricular materials do not – but Tier 1 materials should support teachers in individualizing instruction for all children.
Response from Bob Heimbaugh, Special Education Director, Sheridan Public Schools, WY: To answer your question, I have gone to the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities resource, “Responsiveness to Intervention: How to do It”, prepared for NRCLD by Johnson, Fuchs, Mellard and McNight. They state- Tier 1 intervention is characterized by high-quality, scientifically based instruction that occurs in the general education classroom and is imple¬mented by the general education teacher. The use of scientifically based programs and practices ensures that student difficulties cannot be attributed to in-appropriate or ineffective, poor-quality classroom instruction.
The above statement, in my mind, reinforces for me the reason for using a curriculum that is scientifically based. Please be reminded that what is not clearly stated in the above statement is the importance of fidelity. It is systematic formalized instruction (clear learning targets), along with assessment data (screening, progress monitoring) that informs us regarding our instruction. Fidelity, in simple terms means-‘Delivering instructional practices the way they were designed to be delivered.” In regard to your question, your school team might consider how to answer the question, “How do we ensure fidelity of Instruction at Tier I?” Review the following from the NRCLD Resource referred to earlier in this response. Can you… …Link interventions to improved outcomes (credibility)? …Definitively describe operations, techniques, and components? …Clearly define responsibilities of specific persons? …Create a data system for measuring operations, techniques, and components? …Create a system for feedback and decision making (formative)? …Create accountability measures for non-compliance?
Looking at these questions moves me into my last point regarding your question. Research-based instructional programs provide for replication. As we use scientifically based/researched based curricular materials we increase our chance of success because the program has been proven to work, and if implemented with fidelity, the program will work with your students, too.
Response from Ann Casey, Ph.D.: Tier 1 is the core instruction with implementation of research based practices and should include differentiation within the core. All students receive core instruction and they should all have some differentiation within the core instruction. Differentiated groups will provide opportunities for students to have their needs more fully addressed. So 'no', I don't think one is required to provide interventions in Tier 1. Some schools use the term "Tier 1 interventions” to describe instruction in the core curriculum that everyone receives. These interventions are still part of the core curriculum because every student receives that instruction. For example, there are programs available that some schools use as interventions for students needing Tier 2 support. But in other schools, these same programs are delivered to all students in addition to the core program or standards-based curricula. These schools use the programs as sort of an inoculation to prevent reading failure. Since every student uses this program in these schools, it is Tier 1 instruction. To say it a different way, some schools implement a core curriculum, but then add an additional strategy or program to this core instruction because they have determined their students need it. And they refer to it as ‘Tier 1 intervention.’ It isn't a problem if your team wants to call this example 'Tier 1 interventions.' What's important is that there is consensus and that classroom teachers know what is expected of them in delivering Tier 1.
Response from Stephanie Al Otaiba, Ph.D.: If I were in your shoes, I would first reflect on how the struggling students’ reading skills differed from those of their classmates. I would also begin to collect data about· patterns of strength and weakness in the students’ reading skills. I would try to provide extra small group instruction (with a homogenous grouping) targeting the weaker skills at my teacher table. So for example, I might provide extra instruction with more modeling and more use of pictures in teaching blending and segmenting than I might typically use with my more highly skilled children. I might create some fluency games to practice sight words, if that is a problem, or I might incorporate more practice reading in decodables that are simpler and at the level of this lower group along with some direct instruction in decoding and spelling patterns (e.g., CVC, CVCe). If some students were weak in vocabulary and in listening comprehension, then I might provide more time reading aloud to them in a small group while other students might be involved with a computer activity. Keep track of how the struggling students improve (or not) on what you are trying. As both a teacher and, more recently, as a researcher, I’ve used progress monitoring tools like AIMSweb letter sound fluency and DIBELS measures, but I have also at times created simple word lists and master sheets to see who is and isn’t learning from my instruction.
Response from David Allsopp, Ph.D., Professor of Special Education, College of Education, University of South Florida:
The simple answer is YES. With this said, a number of factors could contribute to whether or not this is happening at a particular school or in a specific situation. Without knowing more about the context (e.g., grade level, the manner in which Tier 2 services are determined to be needed, the structure of Tier 2 instruction, etc.) it is difficult to pinpoint which factors might be operating here.
For the purpose of my response, I assume from the question that both areas are not being addressed instructionally in Tier 2 and that instruction in computations is taking precedence over instruction that emphasizes conceptual understanding and application (since this is a common occurrence in how tiered mathematics instruction is often delivered).
With this said, below are five possible reasons for why this could be happening where you are. The particular curriculum or program being used at Tier 2 is one potential factor. It might be that the curriculum/program being used as the Tier 2 intervention is heavily weighted on computation. This characteristic is true of many “intensive” mathematics programs. While this is not bad per say, the problem occurs when they are used as the sole Tier 2 intervention and students do not get intensive support with developing conceptual understanding and strategies for applying their understandings.
A second factor can be the particular measure that is used to evaluate need for Tier 2 services. If that measure is primarily computation focused (e.g., CBM’s that focus on computation fluency), then schools are likely going to concentrate their Tier 2 services on what they “see” as the problem based on the measure used.
A third factor can be misunderstandings about what the research base does and does not actually tell us about what to do for tiered mathematics instruction. For example, students who struggle in mathematics typically are not proficient with their basic mathematics facts. This finding has led researchers to encourage schools to emphasize basic whole number computation proficiency. While important, it is only a slice of the issue for many students who experience difficulties learning mathematics. However, schools have often interpreted what these researchers suggested as an absolute, such that computation is the primary focus of Tier 2 and 3 interventions. A more conspicuous reading of the research base shows that explicit instruction that incorporates multiple ways of doing mathematics (i.e., representation, communication, connections, problem solving, rationale/proof) can be effectively used to assist students in developing both computation skills and conceptual understandings. Unfortunately, few intensive mathematics interventions incorporate these important mathematical processes in any systematic way.
A fourth factor is that many teachers, at the elementary level in particular, are not well trained in the mathematics curriculum and effective mathematics instructional practices for struggling learners. So, interventions are as much designed to assist the teacher to teach the mathematics as they are designed to address the mathematical learning needs of students. This can limit the level of comprehensiveness that any curriculum or program might have.
A fifth factor is time. Reading instruction takes precedence in most schools as it relates to RTI. As much as two hours of instructional time can be devoted to reading instruction that includes Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. This leaves less time for comprehensive mathematics interventions. Therefore, mathematics interventions that take less time and planning can take priority over those interventions that are more comprehensive in nature but that take more instructional time and planning.
I’ve tried to briefly describe five possible factors you might want to consider when evaluating why students may not be receiving more comprehensive Tier 2 instruction. Certainly, there are other factors as well. I hope this has helped somewhat in addressing your question. It might be helpful to think about whether or not any of these five factors could be operating in your particular context. If so, then this could provide you a way to constructively advocate for improvement.
...minutes if the total number of intervention minutes both equal 90 minutes? Response from Carol Connor, Research Faculty Member, Florida Center for Reading Research:
It depends. In our interventions, we look at overall time per week. However, there is an advantage to spreading interventions over more days, especially with children who have shorter attention spans. The 45 minutes for 2 days might not be as effective as the same amount of time spread over more days. For some children, for example, it might be most effective to provide the 90 minutes across 4 days in a week. The bottom line is that it depends on the intervention protocol and what the efficacy research says about the intervention. However, if the only way to provide service to a child is by concentrating the intervention on fewer days, then it will surely be better than nothing.
...From what I understand, it would be important to adapt to the student and scaffold as the skill/goal is being learned. It does make sense to do the exact same thing every time because then you are not focusing on the needs of the student. Am I correct in my thinking, or are there flaws?
Your question is a good one, and no, your thinking is not wrong. From the information you provided in your question, it appears that your school is using a “Standard Protocol” approach. Schools may select one of two different intervention approaches to support Tier 2 students in the RTI process: the problem-solving and the standard protocol. The National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities defines the Standard Protocol and the Problem Solving process in their literature in the following manner:
The problem solving model, which evolved out of the school problem-solving team approach, uses individually designed prevention interventions (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2007) with students who have academic and/or behavioral challenges.
The standard protocol model uses specific, predetermined, instructional techniques that have been demonstrated to improve student achievement in research studies.
So your school has selected to use the standard protocol model. The standard protocol model used in your school was probably selected as a research-based intervention program that has been proven to be effective for the most common weaknesses identified in the school-wide student data at your particular school.
Response from W. David Tilly, Ph.D.: Tier 2 instruction typically takes place in classrooms in the form of supplemental instructional groups. That being said, there is nothing magical about the location and there are situations where it is most efficient to pull groups of students to a separate location to provide supplemental instruction. The important part of Tier 2 instruction is not the location but ensuring that there is a tight match between the needs of the student and the nature/intensity of the instruction that the student is receiving.
Tier 2 instruction, including the number of minutes, is not mandated in Federal Law or Regulations. Nevertheless, some states, such as Florida, have guidance on this issue. In my school district, Tier 2 instruction occurs 4 or 5 days a week for 20 to 40 minutes. Because we found that supplemental instruction was often not delivered due to events in schools (assemblies, early dismissals etc.), we have encouraged our schools to make sure – even if there are interfering events – that reading instruction is prioritized and provided every day it is scheduled. When providing Tier 2 instruction, it is key to make sure that it is delivered as planned and that it happens every day.
Response from Evelyn Johnson, Ed.D.: The frequency of progress monitoring depends on the intensity of instruction being received. For students receiving Tier 2 interventions, recommendations for progress monitoring typically are weekly or every other week. The goal of progress monitoring is to collect data frequently to determine if interventions are having the desired impact on student outcomes. A great resource for reviewing tools available for progress monitoring at the secondary level is the National RTI Center's Progress Monitoring Tools chart.
Response from Judy Elliott, Former Chief Academic Officer, Los Angeles Unified School District:
Typically Tier 3 students are working on critical skills needed to be successful in core curricula. Most often these students are working on a different reading or math program that provides them with that opportunity.
The critical piece is that they are exposed to the standards of the core curricula. So if they are, for example, in a different reading program than the one used in the core curriculum block, they should be practicing the skills they are learning on those materials on grade level standards based curricula. Otherwise, you have created a totally separate program for students.
In other words, if students go to a different room for Tier 3 reading or math, they need to be exposed to the standards they should be know and be able to do for their grade level; otherwise you have created a separate program for them.
Response from Barbara Ehren, EdD, CCC-SLP: The basic intent of RTI is to deliver what students need when they need it. It is hard to address the situation of a particular student without having all the information. Further without knowing the nature of the tiers to which you refer, it is hard to make a recommendation. Tier 1 would typically be instruction in the core curriculum. The bottom line is that students should not have to jump through "hoops" (preliminary tiers) for the mere sake of going through a process if there are substantial data to show that a comprehensive evaluation is in his best interest. That doesn’t mean, however, that he can’t also be receiving intervention in preliminary tiers while being evaluated.
Response from Ed Shapiro, Ph.D.: Both Tier 2 and Tier 3 are always considered supplemental instruction to Tier 1. Given that Tier 1 represents the instructional processes delivered as part of the core instruction program, ALL students, including those in either Tier 2 or 3 receive Tier 1 instruction. Those in need of supplemental instructional services, that is those not responsive alone to Tier 1 instruction, would receive either Tier 2 or Tier 3 instruction, not both. The level of this instruction would depend on their level of instructional need. In some cases, students may have previously had Tier 2 instruction during which the student was not found to have a sufficient response. Those students would then receive more intensive instruction, with more intensive monitoring of their instruction and this is considered Tier 3 instruction. In some RTI models, students might be identified during the fall benchmark period as in need of Tier 3 level instruction immediately, in which case they would receive intensive levels of instruction and not go through Tier 2 first. In either case, let me reiterate that they would be receiving Tier 1 instruction as well. Tier 2 and 3 instruction is ALWAYS supplemental instruction to core instruction (Tier 1). It NEVER supplants Tier 1 instruction.
...being supplemented with a strategies class. Do you have any data/research to support this? Our district is adamant about having one curriculum for all students.
Response from Bob Heimbaugh: Having one curriculum for all students is imperative. In reference to your question, I believe your trainers are suggesting a second "core" for Tier 3 students because the students are probably not showing any measurable progress. Let’s break it down concerning a Tier 3 student:
The student probably receives the "Core" (90 minutes).
The student is probably being progressed monitored, if not weekly, every other week.
The student may be involved in a group at Tier 2, receiving 30 to 60 minutes additional instruction.
The student probably is being provided some type of accommodation or modification if on an IEP.
The student is probably being provided small group instruction or one-to-one instruction at Tier 3 for another 30-90 minutes.
Still, after all of the supports described above, the student is not responding or showing growth. This is the student to which your trainer is referring. After providing all of the supports listed above for a student and there is still no impact on learning based on data, then a much more intensive instructional program is needed. While being exposed to the 90 minute core is optimal for all students, the 90 minutes spent there may not be providing any educational benefit for the student because the student’s learning needs are so great. In essence, your trainer is suggesting that if a student has needs that are so great they get no benefit from the core curriculum, then an alternative curriculum is needed. Also, most students at Tier 3 will show progress. Your trainer is most likely referring to a very small percentage of students in your schools.
...intense program that meets 5 days a week for 45 minutes per week not valid if it has more than three students? Thank you for clearing up this question.
Response from Lynn Fuchs, Ph.D.: The size of the Tier 3 tutoring group as well as the frequency and duration of sessions should represent greater intensity than Tier 2. Most validated Tier 2 interventions involve group size of 2-5, frequency of 3 days per week, and duration of 30-45 minutes per session. So, most researchers believe that Tier 3 involves groups of 1-2 students, 5 days per week, with at least 45 minutes per session.
...students in Special Education? Is the RTI Tier 3 model similar or the same to IEP goals? If a student is on an IEP, is there anything different that should be done according to Tier 3? In the school setting, who should be implementing the Tier 3 model? Should it be a classroom teacher, a resource teacher, a tutor, a special education teacher?
Response from Daryl Mellard, Ph.D. : Generally, the consensus is that tertiary level services should be more intense and include fewer numbers of students than secondary level services. The particulars on tertiary level services, though, vary with viewpoints.
I don't see tertiary level services as only for students in special education with identified disabilities. Students with disabilities might be included in some tertiary level interventions as IEP goals might be appropriate for tertiary level services. Configuration of the RTI framework will help districts make these determinations. Unfortunately, I don't think state education agencies are providing much guidance on these points.
Schools and districts need to make decisions about the service providers for tertiary services. Because I see tertiary level services as being the most intense intervention level and serving the students with the greatest needs, the service provider most likely needs to be very skilled as instructional and formative assessment skills and knowledge of curricular materials are very important. While the instruction might start with a standard treatment protocol, the instructor/clinician will need skill in knowing how to alter the instruction (based on formative assessment data) to improve the students' responsiveness. One might think of the instruction as a dynamic assessment situation in which students' responses inform the instructor on how well the instruction is working. Strong clinical skills seem important.
Placement in Tier 3 would include students who have not been responsive to secondary level interventions or whose needs are so obviously apparent and high that those students would go directly to tertiary services. The parallel is that some patients in a hospital's emergency room are so severe that they immediately go to surgery and intensive care units.
Response from George Batsche, Ed.D., University of South Florida, Tampa:A school district has great latitude regarding how to present work to students and to grade that work. The intent of “grading” is to ensure that a grade reflects accurately the students’ proficiency with the content. If the method of presenting the work (e.g., time limits) interferes with determining the proficiency of the student with that work, then many school districts make modifications. The goal is to determine the student level of skill—first and foremost. Students with disabilities have the added protection of IDEA and Section 504. I am not aware of anything that prevents a school from providing modifications for students receiving instruction in Tiers 2 and/or 3. That said, such modification of state testing would not be permitted unless a student had a disability and those accommodations were identified on an IEP and/or 504 Plan.
Response from Martha L. Thurlow, Ph.D., University of Minnesota/NCEO: The important distinction between state/district standardized testing and classroom testing is implied by this question. For state and district tests, reducing the number of answer choices typically is not allowed for any student, including those with disabilities. This is because of a concern about changing what the item is measuring when the number of answer choices is reduced. There is also a concern that reducing the number of answer choices decreases the cognitive load of the item, making it non-comparable to the item that other students are taking.
Remembering what is required in state or districts tests is important when considering what to do during classroom testing. The purpose of reducing the number of items must be very clear, and a plan for moving back to the full number of answer choices must be in place.
As this response implies, there may be a good reason for reducing the number of answer choices in a classroom test. For example, a student who is blind and in the process of learning braille may require a lot of extra time to read through four answer choices. If there is careful selection of the choice to remove (e.g., the least likely response), the student’s knowledge still is being checked (although the likelihood of a guess being correct is greater). Still, when this student takes multiple choice items on the state/district test, there is an expectation that the student will be faced with the full number of answer choices. Thus, the student must know this, and must have practice selecting among the full number of answer choices. Classroom tests are often the best place to get this practice.
The bottom line is that extreme caution should be exercised in reducing the number of answer choices, even on classroom multiple choice tests.
...however, my concern is that valuable instructional time is being devoted to “teaching to the test.” I cringe at the amount of skill and drill that is occurring at our school. Many teachers practice fluency by reading letters, letter sounds or nonsense words off anchor charts or practice pages (in the same format as practice probes) on a daily basis. Some teachers have their instructional assistants pull students to work on these skills everyday, sometimes multiple times a day. The same type of practice is occurring for math. While I understand it is important to familiarize our students with the format of tests, I do not feel it is ethical to spend a substantial amount of time preparing in this way…. especially when there are so many meaningful experiences or practices that will accomplish the same goals. We are going to be required to plan lessons together as a grade level next year. I do not want to be required to use these practice pages as an instructional tool in my classroom. Am I wrong? I have tried to look for a clear answer on my own but I am only coming up with bits and pieces here and there. I would appreciate any advice or guidance you can provide.
Very interesting question. First of all, the whole point of assessing children’s nonsense word reading is to see if they can sound out words they don’t know so drilling nonsense words defeats the whole point of that particular assessment and invalidates the test. Drilling students on nonsense words essentially turns them into sight words, which, again, invalidates the assessment. Students would be much better served learning the phonics rules on real words and letting the nonsense word assessment indicate whether they have learned the rules or not.
With regard to letters, real words, and mathematics, there is a value in building fluency and so some drill and practice is appropriate. At the same time, new research is showing that students need time to build oral language skills, listening comprehension, and reading comprehension at the same time they are learning how to decode. In the study “Algorithm-Guided Individualized Reading Instruction”, first graders who participated in tailored amounts of BOTH code-focused and meaning-focused small-group instruction made greater gains in reading (and would do better on AIMS web) than first graders who received more typical first grade reading instruction.
My school schedule asks me to complete six assessments from the Michigan Literacy Progress Profile (MLPP) in September on all students. Our specials services team is also administering three DIBELs assessments. I am wondering if administering this many assessments is best practice. Most of the assessments will not be used for re-testing to show student growth. I feel that this much time testing takes away from my ability to help these kindergartners become adjusted to the classroom. I also feel that if these tests are not going to be used for group placement and growth, that maybe the testing schedule should be re-evaluated. What do you think?
Response from Evelyn Johnson, Ed.D.: It sounds like your school is working hard to implement a universal screening process that will identify kindergarteners who may require intervention in order to become successful readers, and that is great! It also sounds like your school asks you to complete a number of assessments to ensure that all students who may be at-risk are identified. The research on screening suggests that using multiple measures can result in a more accurate screening process – having more data points on student performance provides more stability in the scores obtained during the screening process. That means we can have more confidence in the decisions made as a result of screening. Additionally, using a variety of measures that assess various component skills of reading may serve an important diagnostic role; areas of relative strength and weakness can be identified in order to determine an appropriate intervention for that child.
However, as you note, there needs to be a balance between efficiency and accuracy in the screening process, and given that your school is using nine assessments (by my count) on all students, it may be worthwhile to evaluate the screening procedure to determine if all measures are truly necessary for all students. There are several ways to evaluate the screening process. I'll outline a couple that should help. Using last year's screening and outcome data, a regression analysis can identify the strongest predictor(s) of end of year reading performance.
Procedures for running such analyses are outlined in screening articles such as Catts, Fey, Zhang & Tomblin, (2001). Through this type of analysis, your school may find that it is only necessary to administer a few measures to accurately identify students in need of intervention.
Alternatively, a small number of measures can be used to identify an initial risk pool of students, and then this initial group of students can have their progress monitored for five to six weeks using a curriculum-based measure (CBM). Research has shown that this process results in a very accurate identification process (see for example, Compton, Fuchs, Fuchs & Bryant, 2006; Davis, Lindo & Compton, 2007).
Either one of these procedures may help your school streamline the screening process to include only that which is necessary for you to identify early those kindergarteners who require intervention in order to become successful readers.
Catts, H. W., Fey, M. E., Zhang, X., & Tomblin, J. B. (2001). Estimating the risk of future reading difficulties in kindergarten children. Language, Speech, and Hearing in the Schools, 32, 38-50.
Compton, D. L., Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., & Bryant, J. D. (2006). Selecting at-risk readers in first grade for early intervention: A two-year longitudinal study of decision rules and procedures. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 394-409.
Davis, G. N., Lindo, E. J., & Compton, D. (2007). Children at-risk for reading failure: Constructing an early screening measure. Teaching Exceptional Children, 39 (5), 32-39.
Response from Daryl Mellard, Ph.D.: Intervention selection needs to be based on the assessment of the student’s knowledge, skills, and abilities. Procedures need to be in place that allow for the assessment of students early in the school year or there must be adequate information from the previous year available to guide the decision process. If the information indicates that previous interventions and accommodations were successful, they should be reviewed for their match with the current requirements in the classes and that the accommodations still speak to important values (e.g., efficacy, portability, increasing independence, social acceptance, affordability, training requirements, and ease of implementation). Parents should expect that the school staff and parents will review and implement interventions and accommodations very early in the school year.
My district is having a discussion regarding the selection of our screening and progress monitoring tools. We'd like to utilize the same screening tool as our progress monitoring and know that tools such as CBM are validated for both purposes. Others in the district would like to consider screening tools that do not lend themselves to frequent progress monitoring. While we can argue from an efficiency standpoint and continuity of data across decisions, I'd like to know if any of you have published writing on this issue that we can offer to our committee.
Response from Joseph Jenkins, Ph.D.: There is definitely merit in using some of the same instruments for screening and progress monitoring. However, it is likely some of the measures will ultimately differ because schools will need more detailed measures than CBM to identify students. The problem with using the same CBM progress monitoring assessments for screens is they are not by themselves very accurate screens. In the long run, RTI screening is likely to use a multiple-gating procedure for screening where:
First, a simple (maybe CBM) universal screen is used to identify students potentially at risk.
Second, students scoring around some cut-point receive further, in depth, testing to help distinguish between those who without intervention are likely to fail (true positives) from those who will succeed without intervention (false positives).
Another consideration is whether schools use a Direct Route or a Progress Monitoring Route model of identifying students for Tier 2. The way that schools identify students for Tier 2 intervention varies according to the type of RTI model that is implemented. In Direct Route Models students identified as at-risk by a screening process are immediately provided Tier 2 intervention (e.g., Jenkins, Hudson, & Johnson, 2007; Vellutino et al., 1996; Vellutino, Scanlon, Zhang, & Schatschneider, in press). By contrast, in Progress Monitoring, or PM Route Models, universal screening identifies potentially at-risk students whose progress is then monitored for several weeks. Whether these students enter Tier 2 depends on the level of their performance and rate of growth on PM measures (Compton, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2007). The PM Route yields marginally better identification accuracy than the Direct Route, but it also postpones intervention during the PM phase. By contrast, the Direct Route leads to earlier intervention, but without PM to catch screening errors more students are mistakenly identified as at-risk. In both models screening may be a singular event or conducted periodically (e.g., fall, winter, spring).
Response from Matthew Burns, Ph.D.: There are absolutely ethical standards and I appreciate you asking this question. Assessment issues are best interpreted through the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA, APA, & NCME, 1999), codes of ethics of the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Psychological Association, and federal laws. Jacob and Hartshorne (2007) examined the relevant codes of ethics and laws and concluded that assessments should be multifaceted, comprehensive, fair, useful, and valid. We (Burns, Wagner, & Jacob, 2008) summarized the RTI research relevant to these five facets and concluded that RTI-based assessment practices, when carefully crafted and implemented, have the potential to be multifaceted, fair, valid, and useful.
Potential threats to acceptable RTI-based assessment practices include: the lack of research-based interventions appropriate for diverse academic domains, ethnic groups, grades K-12, and students with limited English proficiency; uncertainty regarding how to determine when a non-response to intervention warrants formal referral for evaluation of special education eligibility; difficulty translating scientifically sound RTI practices to the local school level; and inadequate staff training and poor treatment fidelity.
...midyear, is it correct to test then on passages 4, 5, and 6? If I retest on passages 1, 2, and 3, doesn't this present a statistical validity issue due to repeated exposure? We have a discrepancy in our building as to which procedure to follow based on how CBM was designed. Your quick response would be much appreciated, as we would like to share accurate information with parents during upcoming conferences. Thanks so much for your time!
Response from Evelyn Johnson, Ph.D.: I'm assuming you are talking about ORF passages here and not maze, so my answer is targeted to ORF. As most of your teachers have probably realized, there is a pretty substantial amount of "bounce" in ORF passages - in other words, even though the passages within a grade level are at the same readability levels, some research has indicated that as much of 15% of the variability in student performance is due to passage effects. There is also research that shows that depending on the order in which we present passages, you might actually see different individual growth lines for students! That said, there are a number of routes you might consider to address this concern which I've briefly outlined below, and you'll have to make a decision with your staff that you can get behind and explain to parents. Regardless of which route you decide to go with, remembering always that AIMSWEB benchmarks are only 1 source of data you have on student performance is critical for the continued appropriate use of these tools in informing your instructional program.
Equating passages. In the following article: Francis, D. J., Santi, K. L., Barr, C., Fletcher, J. M., Varisco, A., & Foorman, B. R. (2008). Form effects on the estimation of students' oral reading fluency using DIBELS. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 315-342, the authors describe a process for equating passages through an equipercentile ranking system. The specifics of that process are outlined in this article, but in general, the idea is that raw scores across passages are equated to percentile ranks and then percentile ranks are reported on passages.
Use the same passages. Given that you are using these passages to benchmark, my guess is that the time period between assessment times is about 14-15 weeks? So the likelihood of a practice effect due to using the same passage is greatly reduced, and it might give you more stability in performance levels. In other words, you might reduce some of the variability in performance due to passage effects by using the same passages for benchmarking your students.
Report median scores, and further assess students in the gray area. Finally, you might simply use different passages each benchmarking period, and for students who fall within a range of scores that indicate you might be concerned about them (i.e. a few words to the left or right of the "cut" score), you could administer 3 passages and use a median score to get more accurate about those "gray area" students.
1. Are universal screeners designed to give valid information on large populations of ELLs?
2. Because DIBELS is a static measurement we learn through it that most of our students are below grade level. Since there is no dynamic measurement to show how fast a child can learn, isn’t there a danger of results putting large groups of children in remediation gulags ,destined only to broaden the achievement gap and not close it?
3. In our first year of DIBELS, the 5 coaches at our school will have spent about 60% to 70% of the year doing DIBELS tests for benchmarks and progress monitoring. (We will have spent about 70 of the approximately 170 school days actually doing intervention.) What is the approximate ratio of days spent testing to days doing interventions or coaching?
Response from Evelyn Johnson, Ed.D., Executive Director, Lee Pesky Learning Center, and Associate Professor of Special Education, Boise State University: Thank you for your questions! The purpose of universal screening within an RTI framework is to collect data that help inform your instruction in two main ways:
1. To indicate the efficacy of the core instructional program in the general education classroom. Reviewing the percentage of students who are able to meet benchmark targets gives the school an indication of how successful the program is. If a significant percentage of students are unable to meet performance targets, then that suggests a school needs to examine the efficacy of their instructional program. This is especially true if the percentages don't change when reviewing fall to winter benchmarks.
2. To identify students who are not meeting performance benchmarks in the general education program. These students will need more support in a well-designed Tier 2 system that includes instructional practices that support the learning needs of the students at-risk.
Screening should be a brief process with assessments being quick and easy to administer. If you are serving a large number of students who are English learners and your data indicates that they are not meeting targets, then a next step should include a review of the instructional program to determine the extent to which you are using instructional practices that are effective in supporting students' reading achievement.
Response from Evelyn Johnson, Ed.D., Executive Director, Lee Pesky Learning Center, and Associate Professor of Special Education, Boise State University:
Yes, all students should be included in Universal Screening procedures three times a year in core academic areas. Universal Screening provides information to schools on several levels, including
1. School level - the results of universal screening across grades and content areas provides a quick 'snapshot' of a school's overall performance in key content areas. This information can be used to assess the overall 'health' of the school in these areas and to help identify areas that might need further investigation. For example, if a school's screening results from Fall to Winter indicate that no students are moving out of a risk category (e.g. 22% of students are 'at some risk' in reading in fall and 22% of students remain 'at some risk' in winter), then it may be an indication that the program in place for these students is not effective in helping them make growth. Alternatively, if a very high percentage of students are meeting benchmarks easily, then it may be an indication that more challenging coursework is warranted.
2. Grade level - depending on the size of the school, looking at results within a grade level can provide an indication as to the consistency of instruction. That is, are students receiving the same high quality instructional program regardless of who is their teacher? Looking across grades, you might also be able to notice patterns that inform the vertical alignment of your instructional program. For example, if 90% of fourth graders are able to meet math benchmarks, but only 60% of fifth graders can meet them, then this could be an indication that the jump in the curriculum is either too great, or not supported by the current instructional practice. Additionally, you questioned the need for screening students in the special education program, disaggregating data by sub-population can also inform the overall efficacy of your instructional programming.
3. Student level - it is well documented that students may experience difficulties in academic achievement for a variety of reasons throughout their school career. Universal screening of all students helps to ensure that if a student who has typically met grade level performance standards begins to encounter difficulty, that student will be identified quickly, and appropriate support can be provided.
Response from Evelyn Johnson, Ed.D.: The purpose of screening within an RTI framework is to identify students who are at-risk for poor academic and/or behavioral outcomes so that they can be provided with intervention services. At the secondary level, it is important to consider the outcomes that you are trying to predict through the use of your screening tools, because that essentially drives the development of your entire system. For example, at high school, an important outcome is successful graduation. There are several indicators that predict with a high degree of accuracy those students who are most at risk for dropping out of high school. Those indicators have been packaged into a free, easy to use database called the Early Warning System, which is available for download at the National High School Center website.
To screen for academic outcomes, it has been recommended that performance on the prior year state assessments be used as the primary screening tool. In some research, it has been found that when the standard error is added to the cut score that separates a "proficient" from a "basic" performance, sensitivity (the ability to accurately identify all students at-risk) surpasses 90%. In other words, if a student is unsuccessful one year on the state assessment, there is a high probability that the student will continue to be unsuccessful if they do not receive support to address their academic needs. Because NWEA MAP is closely aligned with state assessments, it will likely yield similar results. When state assessment data is confirmed through the use of fall screening measures (such as reading, math and writing CBMs), a school can better identify which students will require additional academic support. The inclusion of fall benchmarking procedures also provides data on students who transfer in to a school or arrive from another country who do not have prior year state assessment data.
Although it may seem excessive to screen all students, universal screening is important for many reasons. First, there are students who may be able to perform successfully up to a certain grade level, and then experience difficulty keeping up. In reading, this phenomenon is called "late emergent reading difficulty," and can be caused by the increased complexity of the required texts. Additionally, students may experience other changes in their lives that impact their academic/behavioral performance even if they have typically been "good students," and screening helps identify these students in time for schools to implement interventions to support their learning needs..
Response from Amanda VanDerHeyDen, Ph.D.: I don't think there is a "right" answer to this question. Any district considering initiation or expansion of their RTI efforts has to make that decision considering the goals of the district (desired and prioritized outcomes), existing resources, and resources needed to implement. When I have helped make such decisions I have found it helpful to specify what improvements are possible with the implementation or expansion, how much the effort will cost, and then to determine whether the cost is worth it. Once a decision has been reached that the added implementation effort is worth the cost to implement, then it's helpful to specify exactly what actions need to occur well for implementation to have the desired effect. To me, the key is to only undertake as much as can be done well. If I were in your shoes, these are the questions I would ask:
What are our reading outcomes in our district? How do our students perform on the year-end accountability measures in reading? What about the high-risk groups of readers? Are there many class-wide or any grade-wide reading problems?
What effect has our implementation of RTI procedures in the area of reading had on the number of students being referred and evaluated for special education services? Are there any particular demographics that are over-represented in the referral and evaluation pool?
Answers like, "Reading scores are on the rise. We have no demographic categories of students who are under-achieving relative to their peers. More children are getting intervention (correctly selected and implemented) than previously and this seems to have reduced the number of students who must be discussed by the school-based referral team" indicate that the RTI effort in reading is occurring well and is having a discernible effect on student and system outcomes. If the Reading RTI effort is being implemented well and having the desired effect, then expansion to mathematics may be warranted. In my work, we are finding systemic performance problems in mathematics in lots of schools. So once reading intervention and prevention efforts are being implemented well and having the desired effect, it might be a good use of resources to expand to mathematics. One basis for expanding RTI to mathematics might be low year-end accountability scores or school-wide screening data indicating poor performance on mathematics skills.
In your case, it sounds like your district is already planning an expansion. It sounds like your district will be adding the tiered interventions and decision making districtwide for reading. If that is the case, it might make the most sense to ensure that the reading RTI is implemented fully and correctly so that it can have the desired effects prior to undertaking mathematics implementation. Implementation is the linchpin of RTI and it is better to implement on a smaller scale with quality. Correct implementation requires constant monitoring and adjustment.
Other ideas for starting small include: beginning with particular grade levels and expanding to additional grades, beginning with one school and expanding to additional schools, beginning with one topic area (e.g., reading), and/or beginning with one component of the RTI process (e.g., universal screening).
Response from Evelyn Johnson, Ed.D.: When deciding about whether it is appropriate to use accommodations on a test, it is important to consider the purpose of the test. The purpose of screening is to determine which students might be at risk for poor outcomes in a specific academic area. The goal is to create a quick sorting of students into "at-risk" and "not at-risk" categories. This quick sorting is then followed by further assessment of the students initially identified as "at-risk" to a) confirm the screening results and b) determine the extent and nature of the student's difficulties so that appropriate interventions can be provided.
Because the purpose of the test is to determine who might be at risk for poor outcomes, providing accommodations (such as extended time or reading the items) to students would likely invalidate the screening results. However, accommodations that allow physical access to the test (e.g. large print versions for students with visual impairments) would be appropriate.
Response from Karen Wixson, Ph.D.: All components of reading should be addressed within an RTI framework. However, the extent to which each component is addressed may vary as a function of developmental levels (e.g., early elementary, upper elementary, middle and high school), and as a function of the purposes for which assessments are used (e.g., screening, diagnosis, progress monitoring). Fluency is often used to screen students, but it's important to understand that these screening measures are most predictive at the early elementary levels. Beyond these levels, it's likely that screening measures will need to include other components of reading to avoid the situation of students with high fluency who appear to be okay, but who have problems in other areas of reading. It's also important to note that most screening measures do not provide sufficient information for planning instruction and that further evaluation of other reading components appropriate for different grade levels will be needed before identifying the most appropriate instruction intervention. Finally, progress monitoring measures should be focused on the components of reading addressed in instruction, which means that they need to go beyond fluency.
Response from Evelyn Johnson, Ed.D.: First, it will be important to determine the outcome you are trying to predict. At the elementary school level, screening is conducted to determine who is at-risk for poor academic outcomes, especially in reading and math. At the secondary level, we typically know which students are struggling academically – those who have a history of low performance and/or those who require additional support to achieve minimal requirements. Therefore, it may help to conceptualize successful high school graduation as the outcome of interest for RTI at the secondary levels.
Focusing on the outcome of successful high school completion requires selecting (or developing) screening instruments that measure factors that are highly predictive of high school completion. There is ample research to suggest that some of the best predictors of high school drop outs are: a) attendance in the first 30 days of the "transition" years of middle and high school (e.g. 6th and 9th grades); b) being "on track" with credit/course completion at the end of 9th grade; and c) successful completion of core courses such as english and math. The National High School Center provides numerous resources and publications to assist secondary schools with the implementation of a screening system that targets these areas – it is called the "Early Warning System" tool.
Additionally, schools will want to consider the use of performance benchmarks on measures of reading, math and writing to provide more information on the particular areas of concern. The Research Institute on Progress Monitoring (RIPM) has several resources for progress monitoring tools for secondary students. Other available instruments include assessments such as the NWEA’s Measures of Academic Performance (MAP), AIMSweb measures in reading, writing, and math, or district level assessments.
Obtaining screening information on a variety of measures (that includes academics and engagement) can help schools develop and provide more comprehensive, and ultimately, more effective interventions to support their students.
Response from Evelyn Johnson, PhD.: The purpose of screening is to quickly identify those students who might be at risk for poor academic or behavioral outcomes. Medical screening provides a useful and easily understood analogy—vision screenings quickly identify people who need further diagnostic assessment to correct their vision; blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate are routinely screened because they provide an indication of overall well-being that helps inform a doctor's decision to test further. These screens are very brief and easy to administer, and they give medical professionals a lot of information about what to do next for a patient. Similarly, academic and behavior screens should be brief, easy to administer and easy to score. They should also be accurate—that is, the screening process should reliably sort students as either being at-risk or not at-risk for the outcome of interest, and inform what should happen next for a student. It will be a local—or perhaps a state—decision to determine the cost-benefit of employing different screening instruments; LEAs and SEAs should consider time and cost to administer as a function of the quality of information received.
It is recommended to conduct screening three times per year for the following reasons: 1) the demands of the curriculum can increase as the school year progresses, winter and spring screenings can catch students who have up to that point been able to make adequate progress; 2) screening benchmarks at various points during the year inform not only individual decisions, but also provide class/school level data that can inform instructional practice; and 3) students may transfer in and out of school and screening at multiple points can ensure that these students do not have to wait too long to receive services if needed.
This issue has led to difficult, but important, dialogue at team meetings in my district. I believe strongly that at the base of our RtI efforts is the goal of reducing the gap which would indicate we have developed healthy literacy skills that can be supported by strong core instruction. To this end, it is not enough to consider “any progress is good progress.” We want our system to be able to respond when the data are indicating that the child is not on track of reaching a criterion that would represent a skill level that can be supported by core instruction. That said, sometimes in our review of student progress monitoring data we find that (a) the student Is demonstrating individual student growth, but (b) the growth is insufficient to meet the criterion. When this occurs, we need to be working from the individual student growth to ask ourselves these questions:
In what ways are we seeing the student’s reading skills changing over time?
Describe what we are seeing to work and what is presenting challenges during core? During intervention?
What is this leading us to believe that we can change, or bolster, that we believe will contribute to closing the gap? This could be more time, frequency, or alterations to core and/or intervention that will make a difference...
The school district I work in is trying to set up a successful RTI process. Our team is unable to agree on what adequate progress is. Some of us believe that Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions should “close the gap.” Others on the team say “any progress is good progress,” even if the “gap” isn’t closing. Can you provide me with any information on what adequate progress is?
...anyone have a good way to break reading comprehension down into smaller parts to progress monitor? Does anyone have progress monitoring tools for individual reading strategies?
Response from Carol Connor, Research Faculty Member, Florida Center for Reading Research: This is a great question. We have had some success using oral reading of passages with questions that range from simple facts to making inferences. There are also some maze (or cloze) tasks that can be used which are quick and informative. The dilemma, of course, is that comprehension relies on text difficulty, students’ background knowledge, and student motivation.
In Florida, the new state assessment FAIR, uses leveled passages that students read aloud. The accuracy and rate with which students read the passages is highly correlated with reading comprehension skills, particularly in the early grades. DIBELS passages, which use a similar format are also useful for monitoring fluency. Of course, there is more to comprehension that just rate and accuracy but the constructs are all related and so these fluency measures can be useful, when coupled with questions, to monitor fluency.
For more complex ways of assessing comprehension, and depending on the age of the students, Word Generation, developed by SERPS, might provide some ideas for middle school students as well.
and we are unable to find any progress monitoring tools that extend below kindergarten.
Response from Robin Miller Young, Ed.D., NCSP: When we think about gathering data of any kind, we should make sure that we understand the question that has been raised about a student (or a group of students), and who is raising the question. So, in this case, what kind of decision do you want to make about the student(s)? What do you already know about the student(s) and what information do you still need to gather to make the decision? What does the phrase "pre-academics" mean to the decision makers? Then finally, who will use the data to make the decision and with whom will the decision be shared? I will expand on Child Find and Progress Monitoring, two types of assessment, below:
Child Find: When you say that the student has "failed a screening on the DIAL," it would seem that the DIAL is one measure used in a multi-component Child Find screening process. Is this the kind of decision you and the members of your special education department are trying to make? You may need to consider "why" the child did not perform as expected and therefore is judged to have "failed;" i.e., was the DIAL attempted during the child's nap time, etc.? We also need to know what other information you have besides the DIAL scores that would tell us about the child's status on a variety of additional important indicators. Without knowing more, you may find it helpful to look at a domain-referenced tool like the Brigance Inventory of Early Development - II (Curriculum Associates) to supplement the DIAL results. Many programs are also adopting the Ages & Stages Questionnaires (Brookes Publishing) to obtain valuable information on how the child performs essential skills from the perspective of a parent or other informant outside of the face-to-face screening process.
Progress Monitoring: Taking a closer look at the term "Progress Monitoring", one should review the works of Judy Carta and Amanda VanDerHeyden as they have each described two different types of progress monitoring processes that can take place in the Early Childhood and Preschool/Pre-K settings.
The first type of progress monitoring process is Critical Skills Mastery or Mastery Monitoring, which is used to describe Curriculum-based Assessments (CBAs) that inform adults as to the child's progress in a specific curricular scope and sequence. For many commercially available curricula, there is a prescribed assessment process that is linked to the specific targeted skills and content. For example, if your preschool is using the The Creative Curriculum® (Teaching Strategies), then you would be using either the Creative Curriculum Developmental Curriculum or the new Teaching Strategies GOLDTMthat are aligned to their curriculum to note the child's progress in that specific program. The same would hold true for High Scope® (HighScope Educational Research Foundation), A Sound Start (Guilford Press), PATHS® (Channing Bete), and any other comprehensive or supplemental curricula. In some instances, teachers develop skill-based probes to monitor mastery of the implemented curriculum. Readers should also review information on the mCLASS: CIRCLE (Wireless Generation) being used in the Recognition and Response RtI model to see if it would meet their needs.
The second type of progress monitoring process look at the child's performance on General Outcomes Measurement (GOMs). A GOM system looks to measure the child's progress on an "indicator" that reflects a socially valid, general outcome (Curriculum-based Measurement). Carta's presentation referenced above describes the Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDIs); the most widely used preschool IGDIs are the Picture Naming, Alliteration and Rhyming tasks (also known as the "Get it, Got it, Go" assessments) developed by Scott McConnell and colleagues at the University of Minnesota. Revisions are being developed and should be shared publicly in the next year or so.
So, depending on the question being asked and the decision-makers, a staff member may want to monitoring a child's progress on a tool designed for "Child Find" purposes, to gauge progress in a specific instructional sequence, or on a socially valid indicator of later academic success. Many decisions rely on a "convergence" of data around a decision rule, so more than one type of progress monitoring system might be needed to help you arrive at the best answer to your question.
...are deficient, would DIBELS or some other fluency measure be sufficient enough or does the progress monitoring need to be focused specifically on the skills that I am working on with the student (direct instruction of the 6 syllable types)?
Response from Evelyn Johnson, Ed.D.: Progress monitoring should be conducted with standardized, curriculum-based measures (CBM) that have been demonstrated to have adequate reliability and validity for use as progress monitoring tools. The National Center on Response to Intervention publishes a progress monitoring tools chart that provides helpful information for practitioners making decisions about appropriate progress monitoring tools.
For reading, a CBM such as passage reading fluency is called a "general outcome measure" and this type of monitoring is preferred to a "mastery measurement" approach where student performance on a very specific skill is assessed. Using general outcome measures to progress monitor helps us know if the student is making progress in the broad area of concern (in this case, reading). Mastery measurement approaches only tell us if a student has acquired a very specific skill, but they fail to tell us if mastering this specific skill generalizes to increased performance in reading.
If a student fails to make growth on a general outcome measure such as passage reading fluency, then the teacher should consider whether a change to the intervention is warranted. One way to determine what the focus of the intervention should be is to conduct a miscue analysis of the student's performance on the reading fluency measure. A miscue analysis essentially is a systematic way of reviewing the types of errors a student makes during passage reading that can inform the kind of intervention (s)he might need. Specific directions for conducting a miscue analysis can be found on the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring Web site.
Response from Joseph Jenkins, Ph.D.: Right now there is no consensus about the amount of progress required that qualifies as "adequate progress." It's an important and complicated question. For example, "adequate progress" will differ according to the student's grade level and the kind of progress measure employed. For example, Fuchs, Fuchs, Hintze, and Lembke recommend 1.8 words/week gain on Word Identification Fluency (WIF) for first graders, and 1.0 words per week gain on Passage Reading Fluency (PRF) for second graders.
Some RTI decision frameworks use both the student's level and slope (weekly gain) to determine whether to change tiers. For example at Tier 2:
Grade 1 WIF level < 30 and slope 1.8 WIF); PRF return to Tier 1.
Grade 2 PRF level
Look at the trajectory of the student's progress. Are they on the way to performing at grade level expectations but it will take them longer to get there than other students? Does the teacher and the team consider this rate of progress to be acceptable? If the rate of growth is acceptable, then a referral for a special education evaluation is not warranted. The student may not be performing on grade level but there is every expectation that he/she will be given the appropriate amount of time. If the rate of growth is too slow, then the team should consider other options, such as the ones listed below.
Broaden the intervention. If the skills that are being addressed by the intervention(s) are too narrow or isolated, consider broadening the interventions to address additional, related skills and provide time to the student to practice using the new skills. It takes time to learn a new skill and then to generalize it into various contexts. Students often need an opportunity to practice interconnecting activities after a new isolated skill is learned in order to be able to use it in an "authentic" manner.
Evaluate the big picture. A referral for a special education evaluation should be considered when there is evidence that the student may be disabled. Not all students who are academically behind are disabled. What other evidence, besides slower progress, suggests that this student is disabled? If there are no other characteristics, then a special education evaluation would be premature. If, however, there are other indications that this student may be disabled, then the teacher has every right and has a responsibility to ensure that the student's right to an evaluation is not delayed by the RTI process.
Response from Karen Wixson, Ph.D.: Your question raises a number of issues related to RTI. When the assessment and interventions used in the context of RTI are narrowly focused on fluency or other word reading components, they are not likely to address the “whole” of reading as a complex, meaning making process. It’s not surprising then that students can make progress on a particular component of this process and still not be performing in grade appropriate ways.
However, this does not mean that they need to be referred to special education. Instead, it’s likely that the assessments used to screen and monitor progress need to focus on a broader range of skills in ways that yield instructionally meaningful results. With this information, instruction/intervention can address the combination of skills students need to achieve grade level performance. It’s also important to recognize that progress toward grade level standards can be a relatively slow process depending on how far behind students are and/or their learning rates.
In short, the problem is not with RTI per se, but with the manner in which it is being implemented. Done well, RTI has the potential to address most students’ problems as they arise in ways that mitigate the need for referral.
Response from Evelyn Johnson, Ed.D.: A good starting point to find any information about progress monitoring is the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring. They publish a review of progress monitoring tools in a helpful, easy to read chart and that review includes materials that range from grades K-12.
The Florida Center for Reading Research is another good resource. They are developing Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) and Maze passages for K-12.
The Research Institute on Progress Monitoring (RIPM) has several resources for progress monitoring tools for secondary students. In a publication, CBM at the Secondary Level, the RIPM outlines their work on curriculum-based measurement (CBM) in reading, writing, math and content areas at the secondary levels. While they do not publish actual CBMs on their site, they do provide step-by-step guidance on how to develop these materials, which helps schools ensure their assessment tools align with their particular curricular needs.
Response from Ann Casey, Ph.D.: Considerable research went into determining what quick and easy measures were the best predictor of reading proficiency. There are now hundreds of studies validating the utility of this measurement system. As it turned out, fluency was the best predictor that met these criteria. What is important to understand, however, is that the measurement (words read correctly in one minute) is not the goal – it's an indicator of whether students are on track to become proficient readers with comprehension. These measures are often referred to as Curriculum Based Measures (CBMs) or General Outcome Measures (GOMs). Reading rate is an indicator, much like a thermometer is an indicator of health. Thus, words read correctly, is an indicator of reading 'health' or proficiency. For older students, another measure, maze, is a good indicator of reading proficiency. This measurement can be given in three minutes to a group of students (rather than individually), and consists of having students read a passage silently with every 7th word omitted, and the student is to supply the appropriate missing word from a multiple choice format.
Response from Ann Casey, Ph.D.: It's great that you have these data, as it should help your teachers plan their instruction. End of unit tests are a good way to gauge what students learned and did not learn, and is good feedback to teachers. These types of measures are sometimes referred to as mastery monitoring or criterion referenced assessment. We would encourage you to continue to collect these kinds of data. In RTI we need a measurement system that acts as an indicator of progress toward high stakes outcomes. The measure should have reliability and validity for this purpose and also be sensitive to growth over time. Words read correctly and maze meet these criteria. Schools have a variety of assessment needs. The purposes of assessment can be organized into four categories: screening, progress monitoring, instructional planning, and summative evaluation. Schools need measures that meet each of these purposes, and for RTI we focus on the purposes of universal screening and monitoring progress toward high stakes outcomes.
Response from David Allsopp, Ph.D., Professor of Special Education in the College of Education at the University of South Florida:
To begin, there is no consensus on how educators can best determine whether or not a student has a mathematics learning disability (LD). In part this is due to the lack of confidence most professionals have related to the traditional discrepancy method for identifying learning disabilities generally, where students were identified if the discrepancy between a cognitive IQ score and one or more achievement scores was at a designated threshold (e.g., 1.5 Standard Deviations). Mostly, the discrepancy model is no longer being used for LD identification in PK-12 education.
As I am sure you are aware, Federal law now requires that LD identification cannot be considered unless a student is shown to have persistent lack of response to well documented evidence based instruction within a tiered instruction system (e.g., Response to Intervention/Multi-Tiered System of Supports). States differ on what if any other criterion or criteria are needed for identification after lack of response to intervention is met. Some states require additional testing or allow school districts to determine what additional measures they will use for LD identification. One approach is to administer a battery of achievement and cognitive process assessments for the purpose of looking for a pattern of strengths and weaknesses that denote specific areas of difficulties while also denoting specific areas of strengths in areas of learning (e.g., math, reading, writing) and cognitive processing (e.g., central auditory processing, working memory, visual motor processing, etc.). When a particular pattern or set of patterns is demonstrated, then identification for a Learning Disability might be considered. A general rule that still stands is that students who are identified with a Learning Disability cannot also qualify for identification for Intellectual Disability. Other exclusion factors include environmental stressors such as poverty, culture diversity, linguistic diversity, and "poor teaching." Also, a learning disability cannot be the result of a psychiatric/social-emotional/behavioral disorder (although students can have a learning disability and also have an emotional/behavior disorder).
Specific to research on mathematics learning disabilities, there is some information that might be of help with your question but unfortunately, it is not "absolute." First, there do appear to be several indicators of a possible Math LD (i.e., that often are present when students experience persistent difficulties with mathematics). They include:
1. Persistent deficiency in math test performance over time (e.g. K-3)
2. Lack firm grasp of numerosity, recognizing quantities, identifying missing numbers in a sequence (number & number sense). A key is that these students have difficulty with these things at an age when most peers succeed
3. Lack of conceptual mastery
Students who have a math LD may also demonstrate difficulties with particular types of cognitive skills. However, if a student has difficulties in these areas, then it does not necessarily mean that they have a math LD. Language difficulties related to number and quantity may occur. An example of this might be when a student has difficulty remembering the answer to a math problem due to the need to utilize linguistic processing (the need to efficiently process language based information that represents quantity and numerical associations). Sometimes students with math LDs have spatial skill difficulties which might include estimation of quantity/number (e.g., an approximate solution, determining equality using proportional manipulatives, aligning numbers when doing calculations, etc.). Difficulties with memory can also be present with math LDs, particularly with working memory, which requires the deliberate review, reliance on, and application of information during a task like keeping digits in mind and their relative values when performing a math operation. This relates to a student's ability to take in new information, relate it to information they know, make connections, and utilize these connections to learn or perform a particular task "realtime."
Other factors that can contribute to difficulties in mathematics are difficulties in other academic areas not specific to math such as reading, writing, and spelling. Interestingly, students with reading difficulties or ADHD tend to have more difficulties with mathematics than those without these conditions. Of course interrupted mathematics instruction across time and negative attitudes about mathematics communicated by teachers and students in the classroom (math anxiety) can also affect mathematical success of students.
Unfortunately there is no one assessment or measure that will reveal whether or not an individual has a mathematics learning disability. So, at this point, I can only give you my personal thoughts about the approach I would take. So, please understand that what follows is my opinion based on my read of the literature and my experience with struggling learners:
1. I would first determine whether or not a student has actually received research supported effective mathematics instruction in cases where they are not responding. This includes whether Tier 1 instruction incorporates these practices and the extent to which additional tiered instruction has actually been targeted to address foundational concept/skill gaps utilizing explicit mathematics instruction practices (e.g., explicit systematic instruction, use of visuals, concrete-representational-abstract instruction, communicating mathematical ideas, teaching math problem solving strategies, etc.).
2. I would verify that the exclusion factors mentioned above are not interfering with the student's mathematics success.
3. I would use the 3 indicators described earlier to determine whether or not additional assessment is warranted. If a student demonstrates each of the 3 indicators, then I would suggest moving to a more extensive set of assessments that pair mathematics and reading achievement batteries with cognitive process batteries that specifically evaluate working memory, central auditory processing, linguistic processing, and visual-spatial processing.
4. From the results from these assessments, I would look for distinct patterns of strengths and weaknesses. If the student demonstrates general patterns of weaknesses across the board, then it is more likely that the student's difficulties are the result of a more global set of issues rather than a math specific disability. If a student shows specific patterns of weakness with reading and mathematics, and one or more of the cognitive processes, then it I'd be more inclined to think that difficulties with mathematics are linked to difficulties with reading/linguistic processing (i.e., a reading disability), particularly if language is an area of weakness. When patterns of weakness are central to mathematics (i.e., not in reading) and include one or more of the cognitive processing areas then I would be more inclined to suspect a mathematics LD.
I hope that my response to your question helps. I wish I had a more straightforward answer but this is where we are at this point in terms of our understandings of/identifying mathematics learning disabilities. Please refer to an article written by Michele Mazzocco for a nice review of mathematics learning disabilities that helped me in structuring my response: Mazzocco, M. (March/April 2007). Early predictors of mathematical learning difficulties: Variations in children's difficulties with math. Exchange, 40-47. Also, an excellent in-depth book on mathematics difficulties/disabilities is: Why is Math So Hard for Some Children? The Nature and Origins of Mathematics Difficulties and Disabilities?, edited by Dr. Mazzocco and colleagues, published by Brookes Publishing.
I am being told that that this is because of IQ and getting an accurate IQ score. Considering that this student has received documented Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 interventions this year and is still far below where he needs to be, shouldn’t we not have to wait? We do not have an on-site diagnostician and rely on the local education service center to evaluate our students.
RTI should NEVER be used as a reason to delay the evaluation process of any student in consideration for special education eligibility. Indeed, stern warnings have been issued by OSEP to LEAs to be careful that this does not happen. The objectives of RTI are to provide needed supports to students based on the data that drives the instructional process, and when the data suggests a student is not responding to the instructional processes provided within the general education framework, consideration for special education eligibility should proceed. A student's IQ score should have little or nothing to do with their response to intervention. In any successful RTI model, the consideration of a student's responsiveness to instruction across the tiers is the mechanism for examining whether eligibility should be considered.
Now let me move to what I think may be going on here, and I will admit that I am probably reading between the lines. If IQ is even being brought up in the conversation, then the situation is one where the determination for SLD is going to be based on an ability/achievement discrepancy model. In that model, the distance between a student's testing ability (i.e., IQ) and achievement (i.e., performance on academic skills) needs to be large enough for the student to be declared eligible. This means basically, the student needs to fail for a long enough time that the difference between their ability level (assumed to be average) and their tested achievement levels (assumed to b e far below average) reaches a discrepancy that is large enough to make the student eligible for services. In your case, the time in RTI has nothing to do with getting an accurate IQ.
In those schools implementing a successful RTI model but still using an ability/achievement discrepancy to make determinations for special education, the RTI data would add to facilitating the diagnostic decision. But in some cases, the inclusion of the IQ score into the mix would make t he student not eligible for special ed. This may be what is suspected by the local education service center evaluating your students.
Your question is a difficult one because policies for evaluating students to determine if they have a learning disability vary by state.
As a framework, the goal of the RTI process is to ensure that effective instruction is in place at all tiers, and to provide a mechanism for identifying those students who require more intense levels of support. When those students are identified, then the more intense instruction should be designed to help address their needs. If a student is not responsive to generally effective Tier 1 or Tier 2 instruction, and you have evidence to indicate that other students are making progress, then that provides an indication that there may be a 'within-child' issue that needs to be evaluated. Many states are moving away from an IQ-achievement discrepancy model of identification and towards an evaluation model that looks at a student's pattern of strengths and weaknesses in psychological processing areas related to their learning concerns.
...suggestions, help, ideas would be greatly appreciated.
Response from Sheldon Horowitz, Ed.D.:
Sounds like a meeting to clarify goals is in order. The school should not be offering services that a student doesn’t need and the parent should not agree to having services provided that are not appropriate. That said, an IEP with more options listed (i.e., extended time for work completion or during assessments, AS NEEDED) can’t be a bad thing. As per RTI and Tier 3 services, every school/district does things differently. In some settings, ALL students in Tier 3 are special education classified, while in others, some receive intensive services without the special education classification. RTI is a school-wide model within which every student receives instruction and support, so I’m not sure what is meant by “can he still receive RTI” in the question. Refusing an IEP is certainly an option, but one that should be considered only if the needed services and supports are available without formal special education classification.
... Education, what can happen? Whom should be notified?
Response from Jose Martin, J.D., Partner, Richards Lindsay & Martín, LLP:
Attorneys who represent schools do not make educational recommendations, as that is usually outside their area of expertise and definitely outside of their authority as legal counsel, but rather provide legal advice and answer questions. Thus, the attorney is not a decision-maker, but rather a provider of information school staff can use to make their decisions. At times, school staff may not act in strict accordance with legal advice, particularly if the issue is close, there are multiple factors to weigh in making a decision, or complicated liability risk considerations are at play. This is why attorneys tend to commit their legal advice into writing. In cases where school staff are departing from counsel's advice, counsel may decide to communicate the situation to the school staff's supervising administrators. Certainly, the attorney must advise higher administration if school staff are acting in a manner clearly contrary to law, as that implicates the potential for school system liability. Only in the most serious cases where a client acts in a manner contrary to legal advice, however, might it be proper for an attorney to take the drastic step of discontinuing representation, and that decision depends greatly on particular states' rules of professional responsibility for attorneys.
...fairly certain that he will not find the student eligible for special education. What are my rights as a teacher if I disagree with the outcome of the meeting?
Responses by Mary Beth Klotz, PhD, NCSP, NASP Director of IDEA Projects and Technical Assistance and Eric Rossen, PhD, NCSP, NASP Director of Professional Development and Standards:
Thank you for your question. First, we’d like to make clear that we cannot provide legal counsel or advise you how to handle any particular case; but rather hope to provide you with resources to make your own professional judgment.
While clear legal guidelines and technical assistance are offered related to disagreements between parents and the school with regard to the determination of eligibility for special education services, less is offered related to disagreements among the school team. To help answer this question, and any question related to rights related to special education, it always helps to first review the actual language of the law and regulations; as well as any supplemental guidance provided by the Department of Education. A good resource for this type of legal guidance is the IDEA Legacy Website.
First, the pertinent section of the IDEA regulations that detail the group members for eligibility determinations and what requirements exist for dissenting opinions are Sec. 300.306, Sec. 300.308, and Sec. 300.311:
Sec. 300.306 Determination of eligibility. (a) General. Upon completion of the administration of assessments and other evaluation measures-- (1) A group of qualified professionals and the parent of the child determines whether the child is a child with a disability, as defined in Sec. 300.8, in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section and the educational needs of the child.
Qualified professionals are defined in Section 300.308. The determination of whether a child suspected of having a specific learning disability is a child with a disability as defined in Sec. 300.8, must be made by the child's parents and a team of qualified professionals, which must include- (a) (1) The child's regular teacher; or (2) If the child does not have a regular teacher, a regular classroom teacher qualified to teach a child of his or her age; or (3) For a child of less than school age, an individual qualified by the SEA to teach a child of his or her age; and (b) At least one person qualified to conduct individual diagnostic examinations of children, such as a school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, or remedial reading teacher.
Sec. 300.311 Specific documentation for the eligibility determination. (Additional Procedures for Identifying Children with Specific Learning Disabilities). (b) Each group member must certify in writing whether the report reflects the member's conclusion. If it does not reflect the member's conclusion, the group member must submit a separate statement presenting the member's conclusions.
Interestingly, a number of public comments relating to your question were received when the draft regulations accompanying IDEA 2004 were released. In the Analysis of Comments and Changes section of the regulations these questions are discussed. One commenter asked, “What happens if a group member disagrees with the report and agreement is never reached.” The discussion clarified that the eligibility group should work toward consensus, but under Sec. 300.306, the “public agency” has the ultimate responsibility to determine whether the child has a disability. Parents and school personnel are encouraged to work together in making the eligibility determination. Beyond what is required in IDEA, you should also check to see if your state regulations or district policies address how to handle dissenting votes in eligibility determinations. Who has the ultimate responsibility as the representative of the public agency may vary from district to district (e.g., the special education director).
Your question brings up a more fundamental issue; team communication and collaboration. Perhaps you could organize a brown bag lunch discussion with the school psychologist and other team members to discuss the LD identification procedures required in your district (not in reference to specific cases). Further, we wonder what causes you to believe that the school psychologist would make an eligibility decision prior to the meeting. Perhaps you have noticed a trend – and quite possibly, there is a purpose for this trend. Note that school psychologists receive extensive training in the various subtleties of special education classification, including the importance of discerning when lack of academic progress is, or is not, the result of a disability. You may consider discussing generally with the school psychologist how he utilizes data, particularly data from RTI interventions to make decisions, or discussing this generally as a team. Note that you should avoid talking about a student specifically as this could possibly qualify as a meeting held without the parent. An important point to make is that the perception that a student would benefit from or needs special education does not warrant special education classifications – decisions should be data-based and made upon extant research related to the identification of disabilities..
...need to be able to get direct instruction from the teachers and the assists with the curriculum when the teacher is present?
Response by Sheldon Horowitz, Ed.D, Director of LD Resources and Essential Information, NCLD:
An interesting question, or rather, a bundle of questions. Let’s unpack the details of “not able to access the general curriculum” and see where it takes us:
Is the student is capable of learning along with his/her peers but needs additional instructional support or some accommodation(s) to do so?
Is the student capable of mastering general curriculum content, but needs instruction to be differently paced and assignment/assessments modified to allow for keeping up with general class instruction?
Is the student in need of a modified curriculum (perhaps that’s what “parallel” refers to) because it has been determined that he/she will not otherwise be able to succeed in learning the core concepts and skills being taught in the general education classroom?
Once these questions are answered, the issue of “who does what” can be addressed. In some situations, the student’s classroom teacher(s) are the one who both design and implement the instructional program. In others, personnel including in-school specialists, classroom aides or even other teachers (perhaps with content expertise and/or experience working with student who struggle with learning) can be called upon.
It is the responsibility of the school district to ensure that a student’s IEP is carried out, whether by in-district personnel, related service providers, or personnel performing instruction and/or assessment activities on a contract or fee-for-service basis. Questions about compliance should be addressed first to school district personnel (in writing) and if a parent still has unresolved concerns, they might want to contact their State Education Agency (SEA). There are also Parent Training & Information Centers (PTI) available to parents in every state, as well as other advocacy groups that can share expertise and experience in matters similar to you. Look for these listings on NCLD’s (free) online Resource Locator.
...comprehension should the low comprehension score be a flag for concern? What about those areas that are not "scored" on a test, such as hand writing, spatial concepts, coordination, etc.? If a child is years advanced in reading and math, yet cannot draw or write at their grade level, should this discrepancy be a concern? When is ignoring a discrepancy in such cases appropriate? What happens with the student who scores at or just above the percentile for RTI model? We are told that if a child does not score in the 5-10th percentile a child does not have a learning disability. If a child does not score in the top 3 percent a child is not gifted. Can you clarify any of this and reassure us that a child with such a discrepancy would not have a learning disorder?
Response from Jack Fletcher, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at the University of Houston:
Would a huge discrepancy in verbal and perceptual IQ (28 points) and in working memory and processing speed (30 points) be indicative of a learning disability?
No- profile patterns without an achievement discrepancy are of questionable significance. There are multiple studies in the literature that fail to find relations of Wechsler subtest and factor score profiles with LD. Look at the achievement subtests and see if you see discrepancies in achievement test scores that align with this pattern.
If a student scores in the upper percentile for reading and math, but tested low with comprehension should the low comprehension score be a flag for concern?
If Comprehension is the Wechsler subtest, no, it's probably not meaningful. If comprehension means listening comprehension or receptive language, then an assessment of reading comprehension is very important because these domains usually parallel one another. If they don’t, question the test, not the child.
What about those areas that are not "scored" on a test, such as hand writing, spatial concepts, coordination, etc? If a child is years advanced in reading and math, yet can not draw or write at their grade level, should this discrepancy be a concern?
Yes, absolutely in the drawing/writing domain. But it likely reflects a problem with motor coordination and not LD. Problems like this are also seen in children with ADHD and no LD.
When is ignoring a discrepancy in such cases appropriate?
Why would these discrepancies be ignored? In a RTI model, they may emerge in the comprehensive evaluation.
The student is left with struggling, because he/she is classified neither gifted nor learning disabled. LD and gifted are not the only reasons kids may struggle. Even in a RTI model, a child can be considered for accommodations through 504 or even through special education.
What happens with the student who scores at or just above the percentile for RTI model? We are told that if a child does not score in the 5-10th percentile a child does not have a learning disability. If a child does not score in the top 3 percent a child is not gifted. Can you clarify any of this and reassure us that a child with such a discrepancy would not have a learning disorder?
Rigid cut points that don’t account for measurement error are difficult to defend. I presume you are talking about performance on a progress monitoring test and the determination of LD or gifted cannot be reliably made just on the basis of these methods.
...IEP for reading? Response from Jeanne Wanzeck, Assistant Professor, School of Teacher Education, Florida Center for Reading Research, Florida State University:
For students with an IEP, it is the IEP that drives their instruction. So, the amount of Tier 1 instruction versus special education related to reading is identified in the IEP and will vary based on the student's needs. The interventions they receive are also determined by the IEP. As for the universal screening, I have seen most schools include students with IEPs so that they have a full dataset of how students in their school are doing at each benchmark. But, I'm sure there is some variance in that as well.
....and therefore fewer children with IEPs, they will not meet their federal requirement. Any suggestions on how to work with LEA's on this? Response from Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D.: A scenario in which we have done such an outstanding job recognizing and responding to the needs of young children that fewer children require special education services with IEPs, would be an amazing outcome for any school district. This outcome would be a true success for RTI, but more importantly it would be wonderful for the children and their families. Any school district that accomplished this would be a model for country.
But, back to the question, what do we do with the 10% requirement for Head Start? First, there will always be children who need special education services, and even with RTI we should be able to meet the 10% requirement. Second, Head Start is also changing and will have to review their requirements as more educators begin to implement RTI. This review may include rethinking the use of a percentage of the funds for Tier 2 as early intervening for children who need more support but do not need IEPs. Finally, if LEA's concentrate on services for children, and more children are successful, they should document this and submit these accomplishments as evidence for changes needed within Head Start requirements.
Response from Laura Kaloi: One of the biggest changes to the special education law (now IDEA 2004) was the addition of new procedures for identifying children with specific learning disabilities (SLD) as outlined by the topic brief provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
A State must adopt criteria for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10). In addition, the criteria adopted by the State:
Must not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10);
Must permit the use of a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention; and
May permit the use of other alternative research-based procedures for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10).
A public agency must use the State criteria adopted pursuant to 34 CFR 300.307(a) in determining whether a child has a specific learning disability. [34 CFR 300.307] [20 U.S.C. 1221e-3; 1401(30); 1414(b)(6)]
So, while it doesn't force a choice between any one particular model (there is no mandate), it does mean that if a discrepancy model was once required, the state can no longer require the discrepancy model to be used in districts; furthermore, the state must develop criteria that permit the use of the other processes as outlined above.
Response from Jack Fletcher, Ph.D.: Because we don't know each child's particular situation, this is a hard question to answer. The short answer is that the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) governs instruction for students with disabilities and if part of their time is spent in interventions through RTI, then the IEP should reflect it. If RTI interventions are part of general education and the special education teacher is the provider, then the IEP should also reflect this activity.
Remember, the issue of who provides services in a RTI model depends on the regulations within each state and local district.
...should the concerns be addressed solely by the IEP team? Response from David Allsopp, Ph.D.: This is an interesting question! Here is my take on the situation:
"Data" is the first key here. The language of the particular special education regulations in the state/district is the second key. The first question that should be asked is what data (i.e., CBM) is there that shows the student is not performing at grade level in mathematics? This should then drive everything else that is done. For example, if the data demonstrates that the student is not performing appropriately in mathematics in a "Tier 1" context where evidence-based mathematics instructional practices are occurring, then consideration for "Tier 2" (more intensive delivery of evidence-based instruction) may be warranted. The same would be true for Tier 2 if the student continues to struggle. Again, data (CBM) has to drive this decision as well. At the Tier 3 level, actions depend on how the district/school is implementing RTI. One option is a more intensive and different set of interventions are now implemented paying specific attention to the data results from Tiers 1 and 2. If special education is the point of tier 3 then that school/district should follow the procedures that have been outlined by their special education regulations regarding additional diagnostic testing and possible identification of a mathematics learning disability or other disability. In some cases this might mean a re-evaluation is in order. Without knowing the specifics regarding state/district special education regulations in this situation and what processes are used for identification, I would not be able to say specifically what the procedures should be. If the data collection piece is in place and has been appropriately used to match the student’s needs to the appropriate instructional interventions (i.e. Response to intervention) and the student is not responding then the "RTI" aspect has been addressed. At this point it is up to how the state/district has operationalized re-evaluation and/or disability identification procedures. In some cases, it may be logical that the language disability is the cause of the mathematics learning problems. If this is indeed the case, then a change in IEP would be appropriate to address the mathematics area without further identification. Either way, I would imagine that some diagnostic testing would be necessary to make an appropriate decision.
The crux of the matter here, in my opinion, is whether or not a student who is already identified with a disability and is receiving special education services for one content area can be automatically moved to the same delivery method for other subject areas when they begin showing difficulty but heretofore had not been. I believe the intent of RTI is to allow flexible movement of students back and forth among the instructional tiers regardless of disability identification. However, I believe movement among the tiers has to be based on data collected specific to the areas of concern. What I mean is that I do not believe the intent is to assume students who have been identified and have been having difficulty in one area "automatically" should be moved to the same level of intervention for other subject areas. Taking this approach, in my opinion, would be a violation of the principle of "Least Restrictive Environment" (LRE) and the intent of RTI as explicated within IDEA and NCLB.
Response from Daryl Mellard, Ph.D.: Extended time for tests is not an intervention. Accommodations are meant to level the field so that a student can fairly access and participate in the environment. One doesn’t want the student’s disability to limit his opportunity to participate.
Accommodations might be applied in any tier or level of an RTI intervention framework. Accommodations are not their own tier. We hope that accommodations can be applied in the first prevention level to support a student in the general education curriculum.
...Tier 2 and Tier 3 students have requirements that may be modified due to employed interventions and strategies recommended by the team. I’m wondering if grades should also be modified.
Response from Ann Casey, Ph.D.: There might be a case where a team would consider whether a student receiving Tier 2 or 3 interventions should receive modifications for grading purposes, but school or district procedures would likely guide this decision. Perhaps a different way to think about this issue is to approach student learning from a 'universal design' standpoint, and provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate that they have met the standard or understood the concept taught in class as well as providing various ways to learn information. Universal design principles suggest that classroom teachers design their lessons in such a way that most students can access the content. This might require accommodations and modifications, but the standard is not lowered.
...deserves. Thank you so much for prompt answers. We are considering this an emergency.
Response from Sheldon Horowitz, Ed.D.:Thanks for visiting the RTI-AN website. And yes, a child is struggling with learning without a plan in place for getting help should be considered an emergency!
Because your question is directed to our site (which focuses on effective implementation of RTI) it is a bit puzzling…. In an RTI environment (your school?), screening begins at the very start of the school year, for ALL students, and progress is monitored (with lots and lots of data collected about how students are progressing) on a regular and frequent basis. Referral for special education screening/evaluation is embedded into RTI practice, so students who need services and supports through special education classification receive them in a seamless manner, without interruption to their ongoing instructional program. It is important to know that RTI practices cannot be used to deny or delay a formal evaluation for special education.
If your school has not yet embraced RTI, there are most certainly procedures in place to trigger screening and evaluation for determining eligibility for special education classification. The request to trigger this process must be submitted by parents, in writing, and district personnel must provide parents with an overview of what the evaluation process entails, how long it will take, what to expect regarding meetings and decision-making, etc.
...to work together with sped students? Will research-based, evidence-based, and intensive interventions still be acceptable strategies for teachers to use?
Response from Richard Long, Ed.D.: If a special education student meets the eligibility requirements for Title I, then he is in both programs. Title I schools are eligible for Title I funding based on poverty. Individuals who are served by Title I funding are served because they are low-achieving. The two systems have separate reporting requirements, which are frequently confusing. However, the change in definition of SLD would not be the deciding factor of eligibility.
Response from Donald A. Deshler, Ph.D. : In as much as all students will be in a general education classroom, it would be important to carefully observe the student and capture progress monitoring data. Given the signs of some significant learning problems, it will be important to move the student to more intense tiers of intervention (if there is evidence of non-responsiveness) as quickly as possible to see how he/she responds to altered instructional approaches, configurations, and levels of intensity. This information will be extremely valuable (and necessary) data to have should the student be referred for a comprehensive evaluation. Knowing how a student responds to the demands of the curriculum under altered instructional configurations will be essential information to have in arriving at any kind of diagnostic hypotheses.
Response from W. David Tilly, Ph.D.: Response to Intervention (RtI) is the name of a process used by schools to provide help and teaching interventions to all students, based on their needs, so that all students can be successful in their schools. It is a new way of thinking for many schools and it allows teachers to figure out specifically what kinds of teaching might be most effective for students and importantly, gives them tools to monitor whether what they're doing is effective. That way, if our teaching isn't working as well as we'd like, we can make changes in a timely manner and try something else.
IEP stands for Individualized Education Program and comes directly from the Federal Law (IDEA) governing special education in the United States. An IEP is one of the things that is guaranteed to every child with a disability who qualifies for IDEA services. The IEP has many components, but most importantly, it helps set clear goals for a student’s education and specifies specifically what services a student with a disability will get in terms of special education and related services to help them reach their potential.
The two terms are similar in that they both allow schools to figure out effective programs and services. A difference might be that IEPs are only mandated for students with disabilities who qualify for IDEA services. Importantly, students with IEPs are present in every RtI service delivery system and the two work together to ensure appropriate services are provided for students. Additionally, parents always have the right to request that the school conduct an eligibility evaluation under the IDEA.
Response from the RTI Action Network: No. States and local districts have an obligation to ensure that evaluations of children suspected of having a disability are not delayed or denied because of implementation of an RTI strategy. Information obtained through RTI strategies may be used as a component of evaluations for children suspected of having disabilities, if appropriate. However, it would be inconsistent with federal regulations for a district to reject a referral and delay provision of an initial evaluation on the basis that a child has not participated in an RTI framework.
Response from Ann Casey, Ph.D.: Actually, RTI is for all students. The intent of RTI is to provide intervention services in general education early so that special education services might not be needed. Many schools use the RTI framework to provide extra support to students who are above benchmark as well as to those who struggle. However, when intervention services are provided and students do not make the kind of progress needed, RTI can then be used as part of the evaluation process for special education services. So you are correct that lack of improvement with intensive services and good fidelity of implementation could trigger a referral for a special education evaluation. Your last question, to some extent, depends upon what state you live. RTI has replaced traditional special education identification processes for students with learning disabilities in many states. However other states allow districts to choose whether to use the traditional or RTI process for special education identification.
...RTI and that service is only thirty min. I assume this is to keep the special education numbers down since they are pretty high. The teacher is not special education certified. I am concerned that I or the school could be breaking major laws by doing this. However they will not listen to me.
Response from Ann Casey, Ph.D. : In all states, once a student qualifies for special education, the IEP determines the services and accommodations/modifications that each student needs. This is a federal requirement, but many of the details about service delivery are left up states and/or districts to determine. Generally speaking, however, any special education service that is listed on the IEP must be delivered by a special education licensed staff person. So it is possible that the student you describe could be receiving general education intervention services as well as special education services. However, RTI is not a replacement for special education services. A specific concern could be referred to your special education director.
Response from Bob Heimbaugh : From the information provided in the question, I will try to provide you with an answer. In answering the question, I have to make some assumptions concerning IEP services defined in the IEP and the RtI process in general.
When looking at an established RtI program in a school, there are some basic tenants that are designed into the RtI model that support learning through time and appropriate instruction. In an RtI model that is based on current research, all students, even those with IEP’s, will be exposed to the core curriculum for 60-90 minutes each day. During this core curriculum time, instruction is differentiated for all students and this differentiation allows for exposure to the daily learning targets as defined by the core.
The student who is on an IEP and is receiving 30 minutes of "RtI" instruction is more than likely grouped with students who have similar instructional and academic skill support needs. The instruction and identified skill support for the special education student and the other students in the group is more than likely based on the screening, diagnostic, and classroom assessments that showed that these students needed the same or similar instruction to support specific, identified academic skills. The 30 minutes of support, I assume, occur outside of the core instructional block. The fact that the teacher is not special education certified should not play in to this grouping and is not "breaking major laws," assuming that all students in the school are grouped. In the letter and spirit of IDEA 2004, if all students in the school are grouped based on the assessments used in the school, then the special education student to which you refer to is truly in the "least restrictive environment." The 50 minutes of support you say that is identified in the IEP is outside of the RtI process and must be provided by a special education teacher.
Response from Sheldon Horowitz, Ed.D.: This is a great question, and the answer (or answers) are in the detail. If a student has completed a well selected and well implemented tier 3 intervention, their progress (or lack thereof) will be apparent. If more or differently targeted instruction and support is needed, the school-based team should make that decision. If more information about the nature of the comprehension difficulties is needed, some diagnostic teaching or assessment might be in order. Every school system (17,700+ across the country!) determines how eligibility for the LD classification is operationalized. Some (unfortunately) still adhere to the “old model” of wait-to-fail, some have embraced RTI practices but are engaged in a hybrid model of providing general education and special education services, and some have reinvented themselves as teaching and learning communities that provide seamless and comprehensive services, some delivered by special education personnel (and perhaps called “LD”). So, in answer to your question, qualifying for LD means different things in different places, AND perhaps the better question to ask is how to improve this student’s outcomes on these important measures of progress. Meeting the goal is fine only if it translates into positive change. Gather the troops and troubleshoot what more can be done to understand (and deliver) the intervention needed to get this student beyond the intervention and on a trajectory of progress.
...operating. It is a mostly urban district with extreme financial constraints. I was wondering if there are pre and post RtI stats from similar districts around the country that could help us create some buy-in. Response from Edward Fergus, Ph.D., Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, New York University:
Many school district personnel are experiencing a similar difficulty. Some of the "buy-in" issue involves practitioners understanding that RTI is not the new way for students to "get into" special education nor is it the new way to delay the intervention process nor to discredit the expertise or experience of classroom teachers. At its basic premise RTI is targeted to ensure a sufficient and adequate opportunity to learn has been provided to a child. Urban school districts are particularly challenged with enacting the various perimeters of an RTI framework due to the prevalence in the concentration of struggling learners, limited instruction capacity to teach and bridge the learning gap of struggling learners, and insufficient equal and equitable distribution of resources. In order to assist in the buy-in process, I've found it useful using case studies of struggling learners and the implementation of well-defined practices; the RTI Action Network and the National Center on Response to Intervention have various examples of case studies that can be used to do round-robin conversations of how to identify, address and resolve educational issues demonstrated by children.
Response from Ann Casey, Ph.D.: RTI is a framework that could be used as an organizing tool for all of our work in education. The main intent of RTI is to ensure students receive targeted instruction early so all students can be successful. In RTI, we integrate measurement/data systems to focus instruction by using a problem solving process. These components are the framework. If student achievement (both academics and social behavior) is the main goal of schools, then most school initiatives should fit well into this framework. If they don't fit, then the question to ask is what is the intended outcome of those initiatives.
Response from Ann Casey, Ph.D.: Spending time building consensus for Response to Intervention is a very important activity. It may not be possible to have all your staff on board and supportive, but it's important to have the majority of staff supportive of implementation. There are many activities that can support consensus building, but perhaps one of the best is to provide teachers with the opportunity to learn how it has worked for other teachers. This can be accomplished in several ways: professional development opportunities such as attending conferences where RTI is a focus, visiting schools where RTI is already under way, and looking at student improvement data from schools where RTI has been implemented. It should also help to present RTI as not yet another thing, but as a framework for our work in schools. Finally, most teachers entered the profession because of their desire to help students learn which is the outcome of RTI.
Response from Barbara J. Ehren, Ed.D.: It depends on who is using the term. Before RTI became an initiative, some schools used pre-referral or problem-solving teams to assist teachers in implementing classroom interventions to help individual struggling students. In some instances other options were also available (e.g. small group instruction from a Title I teacher). Another popular label for such a group was "teacher assistance team." When used in a preventative manner, these groups contained the seeds of what we now call RTI because they identified ways to provide support to students outside of special education. However, in some places referring students to this group was a perfunctory move en route to eligibility for special education (i.e., What hoops do we have to jump through before we can have this student evaluated for special education?). As many schools and districts have rolled out RTI, they have identified a group of professionals to review assessment data (screening and progress) to identify students in need of support beyond universal, scientifically-based instruction (Tier 1). They may call such a group by many different names, including "pre-referral team" and "problem-solving team." However, I would like to argue that the use of the former flies in the face of the spirit of RTI. To use the term "pre-referral" orients schools toward the traditional special education referral process. It literally means "before referral" and is too closely associated with the old way of doing business when special education was the desired destination for struggling students.
Response from Tom Komp: The question of "How to Engage Veteran Teachers in RTI?" comes up repeatedly during many workshops on RTI. There is no definitive answer. The only advice that I give is the knowledge that the data collected through RTI makes a good teacher want to get better and great teachers will shine! Most of our experienced teachers have ridden the tide of many educational initiatives. RTI is not the latest educational fad. It validates good teaching and gives more information to teachers so they may help their students. RTI helps organize and monitor good teaching practices that have existed for years. It also infuses many research based and validated programs that never existed 20 years ago.
I have had several teachers "put off retirement" because of the excitement generated by the validation of their teaching. I have also experienced teachers that are "counting down the days." The students in both of these classrooms continue to be monitored to assure a quality education. Extra support for the students in either class is given as needed. Our veteran teachers have invaluable experience that the RTI process seems to complement. Their expertise is utilized through the decision making process that is necessary for an effective program to succeed.
Our most experienced teachers are the cornerstone for success. Their "gut feelings" about students are often validated through data. Using their experience and research, we frequently find solutions to difficult student issues. Ownership of this process helps to establish an effective RTI.
Congratulations on your recent new position! The potential for this position is very significant, but needs to be crafted in a way to best support the overall vision of the school and district. In my own district, colleagues who serve as interventionists may have varying job descriptions depending on the needs of the building, design of the intervention model, and strengths of the individual. With this said, I believe each of them serves the following roles:
Assisting with the planning, and sometimes direct services, for students to be appropriately and meaningfully included during core classes. This may involve coaching, modeling, or sometimes co-teaching with content teachers.
Analyzing data to understand student(s) needs and determine instructional focus during intervention.
Teaching intervention groups for students in need.
Collecting and analyzing frequent progress monitoring data in order to determine instructional decisions.
Facilitating progress monitoring reviews with building teams or professional learning communities to respond to student data.
Serving as an integral part of a problem-solving team at the building level.
Response from Mary Beth Klotz, Ph.D.: School Psychologists are vital contributors in an RTI process. They are trained and experienced in assessment, consultation, academic and intervention planning, program evaluation, and home-school collaboration. NASP, along with several educational associations, wrote a series of fact sheets about the roles of educational personnel and parents in RTI models. See: http://www.nasponline.org/advocacy/rtifactsheets.aspx.
Response from Principal Jared Moretti: It is important to clarify who we consider non-certified staff and the conditions under which they work with children. Non-certified staff are district employees who do not hold a teaching certificate. They do not make educational decisions because they do not have a teaching certificate nor do they have the background to make such decisions. They do receive professional development (e.g., we have brought people in for them to work with, sent them to conferences and seminars, etc.) They may offer insight and suggestions to the special education or classroom teacher but academic decisions are the responsibility of certified personnel. Non-certified staff carry out the curriculum and academic plans that have been determined by the special education teacher or classroom teacher and they report directly to these individuals.
One way of using non-certified support staff or paraprofessionals in RTI is to have them provide some of the interventions. We do some of this at our school by having a paraprofessional work with a child one-on-one or with two students. We try not to give a paraprofessional more than 2 students because usually these students are working on some very specific skills and require a great deal of attention.
Another way that we have found to use paraprofessionals is to provide extra support in the classroom. We use paraprofessionals to free up our "experts" to work with children who need the most help. We use a "flooding" or "pushing in" model in which our special education teacher, Title 1 and reading specialist are working with a small group of students during our literacy block time. During different times of the day, we flood different grade levels with these three professionals. They work with students that are not reading at grade level and who are grouped together based on their skills to receive intense interventions. The students that are reading at grade level or above are grouped with the classroom teachers for enrichment or extension. These groups are very small, usually no more than 5. If they are bigger, then we might bring in a paraprofessional to help. We ensure that the special education teacher and the Title 1 teacher have some identified students in their groups so that we are meeting funding requirements, but these groups may also contain students who are not identified but still need help in that specific area. We are able to do this because during this time our paraprofessionals are providing support in the classroom for other students.
The short answer is that we use paraprofessional to provide support in the classroom so that we can free up our experts to help the kids who need the most help.
Response from Principal Bob Heimbaugh: Non-certified staff in our school includes paraprofessionals that our district hired to assist with instruction, supervision and support for students in a building. These individuals can be very beneficial in the process of providing instruction to children in the RTI process.
As a principal, I reinforce with staff that in order to maintain the fidelity of instruction, all non-certified staff involved in the instructional process need to be involved in the same professional development as certified staff. During professional development training in our schools and district concerning RTI implementation, paraprofessionals are asked to be trained right beside the teachers. It is important to note that all instruction provided by non-certified staff is under the direct supervision of a certified teacher.
Each week, teacher grade level literacy teams meet to review data and evaluate student growth. From these meetings, lesson plans are created and paraprofessionals are provided lessons from the teacher for small group instruction. The paraprofessional is in the classroom teaching her small group with the teacher, who is also involved in small group instruction. At the end of each day the paraprofessional and teacher review the lesson and make adjustments for the next day.
We found that when non-certified staff were involved in the professional development a common language around instruction emerged. Having non-certified staff in the classrooms during core instruction helped to reinforce what they were doing when they worked with their small groups. By involving paraprofessionals in team meetings, everyone was able to maintain systematic and explicit instruction together.
Response from Judy Rudebusch, EdD, CCC-SLP: Thanks for the question about speech-language pathologists being involved in RTI. I think there are some exciting possibilities as well as some promising practices already in place. Here are some examples from my experience in Texas:
SLPs have been providing an in-classroom Tier 1 support program helping students dictate and write stories in addition to developing questioning skills to help peers extend and expand their stories. The purpose of this approach is to catch oral language problems early and provide an intervention to prevent referral and placement in special education. Here, SLPs are helping with academic difficulties by supporting language skills. This approach is modeled after a program started in San Diego schools.
SLPs can also be involved in direct and indirect activities in an RTI framework to support balanced literacy interventions, especially in the areas of phonemic awareness, comprehension, and vocabulary. SLPs also serve as important members of Problem Solving teams to look at individual student concerns when poor communication skills may result in academic or behavior problems.
Next year, the Pasadena Independent School District (TX) is starting two language initiatives conducted by SLPs. At one school, we will be looking at the effectiveness of using a story lab approach to strengthen English oral language production for ELL students in bilingual classes. The SLP will work with the second grade bilingual classrooms and their teachers during ESL time and work on grammar, syntax, and story telling. At another school, the SLP is starting a program that boosts the phonological awareness and metalinguistic awareness skills, as part of a balanced literacy approach, through a program she is designing for struggling kindergarten students. Again, these approaches demonstrate support of language skills which directly scaffolds academic issues a student may have, thus falling under RTI.
Finally, SLPs are also using the tiered framework of RTI to expedite articulation interventions. In one school district, they have an ArticLab in place for students with one, two or three sound errors which serves as a Tier 2 targeted intervention to clear up articulation errors and prevent referral and/or placement in speech-language therapy. In their initial cohort of 89 students, after about 14 hours of intervention, 9 students continued in the artic lab, 2 students were referred for individual evaluation (a special education referral), and 78 students improved their artic sound errors and required no further need of service. The artic work uses the RTI framework by utilizing Early Intervening Services (EIS) which then prevents referral or placement in special education. EIS is a funding strategy, and Tier 2 artic work serves as the activity for prevention of future problems.
In another district, SLPs are focusing on articulation to prevent referrals using approaches that center around practice with correct sound production. This approach was developed by SLPs and implements an RTI-like framework but is not directly within RTI services.
Response from Sandra Schefkind, MS, OTR/L: Since 1997, the AOTA has promoted the concept of “workload” rather than “caseload” because it is more reflective of the full scope of therapists’ responsibilities in schools and early intervention settings. These responsibilities may include work with and on behalf of students including documentation, supervision of OT assistants, travel time, staff consultation, student assessment, staff planning meetings, and more. A workload is reflective of collaborative teamwork and data collection to serve students in the least restrictive environment to promote social participation and academic success. A workload expands the role of the occupational therapy practitioner beyond a direct service model, and is reflective of IDEA law which mandates that services support access, participation, and progress in the natural environment/general curriculum. I suggest that you review the document entitled Transforming Caseload to Workload in School Based and Early Intervention Occupational Therapy Services.
The US Dept of Education is promoting a school wide prevention approach within general education. This problem solving model, originally developed for students with learning disorders, has now been expanded to target all students who are at risk for failure. The Response to Intervention (RTI) process provides high quality intervention, continuous progress monitoring and data collection to match student educational and behavioral needs. AOTA has developed a FAQ on RTI as a valuable resource for those in school-based practice, and it can be found on our website under Practitioners and under Children and Youth. You should investigate your State Practice Act (licensure law) to ensure that prescreening and pre-referral activities are in compliance.
Response from Mary Beth Klotz, Ph.D.: You raise a good question and one that does not have a readily available, one-size-fits-all answer. The procedures for use of RTI in private schools for disability identification, including in Catholic parochial schools, will vary to some extent depending on local procedures. What would be advisable (and it sounds like you are doing this already) would be to become very familiar with the components of a RTI process and help your schools adopt those facets that are feasible given their limited staffing and budget. This is what some staff members are doing in public schools where the district or state is in the very early stages of RTI implementation. This might mean revising the universal screenings your schools conduct each year, careful selection of a scientifically based reading program for all students, improving how outcomes from individual student interventions are monitored, etc.
There are a couple of resources I would recommend as you investigate how to implement RTI in your schools:
You can sign up for the NASP RTI listserv and pose you question there. It would be helpful for you to hear from other school psychologists who are working in private schools.
Take a look at the resources on the RTI Action Network that address getting started. You will find many suggestions on how to build consensus and the ground work for RTI implementation and scale up.
NASP has many articles and resources on RTI on their Web site that will be helpful to you.
Response from Jill Cook, American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Position Statement:
Professional school counselors are stakeholders in the development and implementation of the Response to Intervention (RTI) process. Professional school counselors align with the RTI process through the implementation of a comprehensive school counseling program designed to improve student achievement and behavior.
The Rationale Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tiered approach to help struggling learners. (RTI Action Network, 2008). Guided by student outcome data, RTI can be used to make decisions about general, compensatory, and special education, assisting in the creation of a well-integrated and seamless system of instruction and intervention (Ehren, B, et. al., 2006). Professional school counselors implement a data-driven comprehensive school counseling program that meets the needs of all students and includes the identification of students who are at-risk for not meeting academic and behavioral expectations. Professional school counselors design and implement plans to address the needs of struggling students and collect results data based on the effectiveness of the interventions.
The Professional School Counselor's Role Professional school counselors assist in the academic and behavioral development of students through the implementation of a comprehensive developmental school counseling program based on the ASCA National Model for School Counseling by:
Providing all students with a standards-based guidance curriculum to address universal academic, career and personal/social development
Analyzing academic and behavioral data to identify struggling students
Identifying and collaborating on research-based intervention strategies that are implemented by school staff
Evaluating academic and behavioral progress after interventions
Revising interventions as appropriate
Referring to school and community services as appropriate
Collaborating with administrators about RTI design and implementation
Advocating for equitable education for all students and working to remove systemic barriers
The following chart shows how a comprehensive school counseling program aligns with the RTI process.
RTI ProcessRole of the Professional School CounselorTier 1: Universal Core Instructional Interventions: All Students, Preventative and Proactive
1. Standards and Competencies (Foundation) 2. Guidance Curriculum (Delivery System) 3. Individual Student Planning (Delivery) 4. Curriculum Action Plan (Management) 5. Curriculum Results Report (Accountability)
Tier 2: Supplemental/Strategic Interventions: Students at Some Risk
1. Standards and Competencies (Foundation) 2. Individual Student Planning (Delivery) a. Small group appraisal b. Small group advisement 3. Responsive Services (Delivery) a. Consultation b. Individual counseling c. Small group counseling 4. Closing the Gap Action Plan (Management) 5. Closing the Gap Results Report (Accountability)
Tier 3: Intensive, Individual Interventions: Students at High Risk
1. Standards and Competencies (Foundation) 2. Responsive Services (Delivery) a. Consultation b. Individual counseling c. Small group counseling d. Referral to school or community services 3. Closing the Gap Action Plan (Management) 4. Closing the Gap Results Report (Accountability)
Professional school counselors implement a comprehensive school counseling program that addresses the needs of all students. Through the review of data, professional school counselors identify struggling students and collaborate with other educators to provide appropriate interventions through the RTI process. Professional school counselors work collaboratively with other educators to remove systemic barriers for all students and implement intervention programs that assist in student success.
Ehren, B. EdD, Montgomery, J., PhD, Rudebusch, J., EdD, Whitmire, K., PhD, New Roles in Response to Intervention: Creating Success for Schools and Children, November 2006.
RTI Action Network. Retrieved June 3, 2008 http://rtinetwork.org.
Shaprio, E. S. "Tiered Instruction and Intervention in a Response-to-Intervention Model." Retrieved June 5, 2008" http://www.rtinetwork.org/Essential/TieredInstruction/ar/ServiceDelivery/1.
...we have made leaps and bounds at home to get him caught up. He can now write his first and last name, count to 20, and recognizes colors. The teacher wants to place him on RTI with evaluations every week for 8 weeks and then based on that will look at special education. I do not believe this is fair to my child who has only had school for 8 weeks and is showing significant progress. What rights do I have as a parent to get additional help for my child without him being labeled?
Response by Aaron Deris, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Minnesota State University, Mankato:
First and foremost, RTI is for all students. The purpose of RTI is three fold- instruction, measurement, and problem solving. The first area, instruction, is to ensure that schools are providing quality evidence based instruction. This means that the curriculum the school is using should have evidence that it has been effective in allowing students to meet grade level standards. The second is assessment. In an RTI model the measurement is both the screening which is typically done at fall, winter, and spring and the progress monitoring which is done typically weekly (Tier 3) and bi monthly (Tier 2). Regarding the last purpose- problem solving, this is to have a team looking at data and working to develop appropriate interventions for students who have been identified through the screening process as not being on track to make grade level targets. Second, you do have rights as a parent in terms of special education. You always have the right to ask for an evaluation for special education services if you believe your child has special education needs. You also always have the right to deny a special education evaluation for your child, if the school system decides to do one. From what you are describing, the school wants to continue to work with your son and monitor his progress with interventions. I always welcome any additional assistance. If you are concerned, then I would request a conference with the teacher and administration to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Third, I am providing you with information from PACER a national organization that provides general information on parents rights. However, each state publishes its own booklets on parent rights. .
...related stress has made her life very difficult. Her 504 plan provides accommodations, but the school doesn't follow through with helpful responses to her needs. How can we get the help she needs?
Response from Sheldon Horowitz, Ed.D.: A 504 plan with agreed-upon reasonable accommodations that are not being provided? Sounds like a meeting is in order. If the school is not able to provide what has been agreed upon as necessary by way of accommodations, they are out of compliance and in violation of your child’s rights. If the 504 plan is reasonable but not helpful, all the more reason to request (in writing) that the “committee” reconvene to review the plan and make adjustments. A recommendation: be sure not to approach these discussions in an adversarial way. Rather, look to partner with the school to find a BETTER WAY to ensure that this student is receiving the services and supports they need to be successful.
...and Math. I have asked the school to test him but they have declined. Can you give me any help on what to do now? I do not want my child to give up on his learning.
Response from Sheldon Horowitz, Ed.D.: Thanks for your message. You are to be commended for recognizing early signs of struggle in your son, especially given the family history of learning disabilities. In answer to your question, I’d suggest that you approach your son’s school from a different angle. Once you have shared your specific concerns with teachers, administrators and others, ask for a detailed plan about how they propose to address these concerns, within what timeline they will do so, and how they propose to evaluate what, if any, progress he is making in response to their efforts. If they are a school engaged in effective RTI implementation, they will have good data to share with you about their attempts to provide targeted instruction and support. If they are not yet engaged in effective RTI practices, and you feel as though time is slipping away despite your efforts to encourage appropriate action, you are entitled (by law) to request that your child undergo screening and/or evaluation for the purposes of determining whether he has an educationally handicapping condition, namely specific learning disabilities.
Also know that at any point in an RTI process, education law (IDEA) allows parents to request a formal evaluation to determine eligibility for special education. An RTI process cannot be used to deny or delay a formal evaluation for special education. For more information on IDEA provisions see NCLD’s Parent Guide to IDEA. And for more information about RTI, see our Parents Guide to RTI.
...should be at a "G" level and he's at a "C". We started the year at an "A" - so he is progressing but we are half way through the year. My son also has an IEP for speech and fine motor skills. How can I get the school to help him with his reading? I know there are three tiers to the RTI - shouldn't he qualify for something? How do I get them to listen?
Response from Lauren Campsen: Title I is often the source of funding for RtI, but not always. We started our tiered interventions before our school started receiving Title I funding three years ago. We did this by using the few resource personnel (media specialist, reading teacher, administrators) we had and hiring a couple part time teachers for the second half of the year with some state intervention money. It was very difficult and could only be done on a smaller scale for the most needy students (demographics were never a consideration, only degree of academic proficiency). Now we can use Title I funding for additional staff that work with all students who are identified as non-proficient on our assessments because we were approved for a whole school model.
There is also a model where only low socio-economic status (free - reduced lunch) students can receive Title I services. In this case, the school is required to use the Title I funding to support only those students who are identified as a Title I based on family income. This is most likely the case for the school in the question. However, it is unfortunate that the school is not using non-Title I funded staff members to provide support for students who are perhaps not from a low socio-economic status background and do not qualify for Title I support, but are still not proficient.
I would advise this mother to become vocal about what is basically an unfair situation. After all, the school has a responsibility to ensure that ALL students, regardless of demographics (high or low) learn. They should be held accountable for that.
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